Is CSR Evolving?

In a recent blog by Stefan Stern on the Financial Times Management Blog site he flamboyantly described his lack of enthusiasm for the more superficial side of CSR. I’d like to think of myself firmly in the ‘serious CSR type’ category and not in the ‘crowd of burbling do-gooders’. After a couple of days of reflection, I now consider Stefan’s words reassuring and hopeful. Mallen Baker presented an excellent reply and recognised by Stefan on the blog.

My initial interpretation placed the blog on the ‘CSR is bad’ side of the fence. Most opinions on CSR are usually polarised, you get used to that but after a couple of reads through I feel much more positive.

Let’s get one thing straight, I am an eternal optimist and pretend to be little else. I’m also a perfectionist and often find compromise difficult and here’s my prediction, based very firmly in commercial reality, for the future of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The global economic crisis will change the way the financial world operates albeit probably not as much as the now unemployed Joe Public wants. Climate Change and population growth will affect our individual lifestyles in an ever more pervasive manner whatever we do today, tomorrow or anytime during our own lives. Attitudes and behaviour are going to have to alter, most likely against our wishes at home and at work. CSR, Corporate Citizenship, Sustainability and all flavours in-between  or whatever it is called in the future will move slowly, inevitably, even possibly imperceptibly up the priority ladder.

I can forsee the proliferation of an evolved, embedded and accountable CSR approach by the private sector (corporations and SMEs) through legislation, leadership, enterprise and common sense. The whole agenda is still immature in its development if we’re honest with ourselves and we are only now beginning to see the required volume and credibility of data to reinforce the proposition through to mainstream consideration. The phrase ‘Tipping Point’ has been spotted in amongst a number of CSR and Sustainability related documents over the past couple of years and I’m particularly interested in its association with quantity and quality of evidence this has been applied to.

Without doubt there are many businesses that are in it for superficial reasons but should we really care? I rather they did the right thing for the wrong reasons than not do anything at all. Time will convert them, Darwin says so.

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