I read something today in the Globe and Mailthat suggested that consumers “wants” have shifted to “needs” and it made wonder if this applies to CSR. My own obvious bias aside, while I think this is true in many consumer goods categories (Do I really need an new pair of shoes? Likely not), I think that consumers and employees now expect more from corporations in this area.
What does this mean for corporations? The past practice of keeping CSR a largely invisible sideline to core business is fading fast. More than ever, corporations need to understand what matters to their most important stakeholders and deliver on these expectations. In the “era of responsibility”, responsible business practices are now the table stakes. So, corporations “need” to do the right thing and be seen to do the right thing in terms of environmental responsibility, ethical business practices, and social engagement.
Interestingly, over the last 4 or 5 months I haven’t come across one corporation that is reducing its efforts in this area. I can’t be sure, but I’d say that this wouldn’t have been the case in previous recessions. The challenge for corporations today is answering a number of key questions including: How can we ensure that our efforts are seen as authentic and genuine? How can we measure our performance? Who can we partner with?
Want or need? I’d say need.