Corporate Responsibility Trends for 2016

Jan 1st, 2016 | By | Category: Sustainability

EHS Journal - Corridor by Dark Water

“We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

As this line from the classic New Year’s Eve song suggests, now is the time to toast goodwill and celebrate achievements. It’s also time for businesses to think about the future.

For leading companies, the season presents a timely opportunity to evaluate their corporate responsibility (CR) strategies and initiatives. Smart companies recognize that CR has evolved from just philanthropy and volunteerism. CR is now a business imperative that integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance into day-to-day operations.


CR Trends

We are seeing a number of CR trends for 2016. They include:

  • Corporations will be expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as agreed at COP21
  • Materiality is front and center
  • Increased demand for disclosure and scrutiny of supply chains
  • Demand for action on diversity and pay equity

Consider how you can respond to these trends with your CR strategy and communications in the new year.

  • Develop SMART CR goals and commitments. What do you hope to achieve this year? Put a number on it. Saying “we commit to being a greener, more responsible company” is not enough. Create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
  • Perform a materiality analysis. Engage stakeholders to determine what they think is most important and map it against what is essential to your business. The analysis will help you prioritize and focus on the critical issues to minimize risk and maximize opportunity.
  • Complete a supply chain audit. If you don’t have the resources to audit your entire supply chain, focus on where there may be conflict minerals or other areas where you have identified risk (e.g. living wages, slave labor).
  • Be more transparent. Consumers, investors, talent and NGOs want to know more about how you operate, whether it’s clean labels or how much you pay hourly workers. By sharing information, backed by data, you increase trust. Don’t be afraid to share challenges too. You’ll get more credit than you imagine.
  • Find a unique media hook. Donations and volunteer days don’t garner much media attention. Journalists are looking for CR stories that demonstrate innovation and drive business results.

Done right, CR is a win for business and society. Thoughtful planning and execution of CR programs that support a brand’s mission will resonate with stakeholders.


About the Author

Jane P. Madden is the U.S. Managing Director, Corporate Responsibility at Burson-Marsteller. She has 25 years of experience as an authority on ESG strategy, performance and communications. Jane has advised Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries including extractives, transportation, energy, CPG, and healthcare, on sustainability strategy, executive positioning, and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Jane was a partner at Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and served as a World Bank official.


Photograph: Corridor by Dark Water.


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