I was recently at CommsCon, an event for PR and communications professionals, and I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Wayne Burns, Director of the Centre of Corporate Affairs, about the future and importance of corporate responsibility.
One of the things that stuck with me was that we can’t look at corporate responsibility as just being a program anymore – it’s a way of managing a business.
It is fair to say that the language around the board table has changed. Twenty five years ago, maximising returns to shareholders was based around the view that the business of business is business. Today CEOs and boards are increasingly looking at providing sustainable returns to shareholders while also creating a better business for all the stakeholders.
Only a few years ago, the talk was all about CSR and how big corporations had to give back to the community. While this is still important, companies need to take a more sophisticated view and consider the wider impact they can have across safety, smarter offering, people, environment and fair play.
Corporate responsibility needs to be an integral part of a business’ underlying strategy and addressed at board level, to engage with stakeholders and understand that employees are increasingly keen to play a part.
For the next generation of CEOs, the idea of creating a sustainable business, rather than just producing returns, comes naturally and current executives who fail to take corporate responsibility seriously will struggle to survive in an age where stakeholders are becoming more focused on the issue.
As CEOs increasingly see themselves as stewards of the company they are running and aim to leave it in a better shape, it is important to understand that corporate responsibility implies making decisions and ask the questions: ‘how is this going to impact our stakeholders, do we understand our stakeholder priorities’.
In the next 15 years, socio-political developments will impact business conditions considerably making it crucial for companies to prepare to become future-proofed. The ones that cannot adapt in the very near future are not likely to be in business in 10, 20, or 30 years’ time.