In previous years a comprehensive corporate responsibility strategy has typically involved a commitment to continuous improvement, to being near the best in class, and engaging stakeholders. In February 2008, the latest analysis of trends in corporate responsibility from Lifeworth argued this consensus was shifting, as the scale and urgency of social and environmental challenges became more widely understood, along with the risks and opportunities to business. The review chronicled a wave of announcements of specific time-bound environmental targets from companies, concerning actual performance, rather than management processes.29
In just the first month of 2008 dozens more targets were set by companies. For instance, Heinz pledged to provide free micronutrient assistance to 10 million children at risk of iron-deficiency anaemia by 2010; Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company announced plans to reduce CO2 emissions from production by more than 20% by the end of 2009; HP announced a target to reduce PC energy usage by 25% by 2010; and the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer planned to increase its pro bono activities by 30% by 2009. Perhaps winning the prize for the most ear-catching target, Renault-Nissan announced plans to sell entirely electric cars in Israel by 2011.This shift to performance targets reflects ‘the urgency of the global challenges we now face, such as on water, food, poverty’, argued Professor David Grayson of the Doughty Centre at Cranfield University. That urgency ‘makes the search for better models of sustainable development ever more critical’.30 The Lifeworth review predicted that this focus on the pace of innovation and entrepreneurial activity to addressing societal challenges would lead to a shift in language about ‘corporate social responsibility’, with terms such as ‘sustainable’, ‘social enterprise’ and ‘responsible enterprise’ becoming more common.
We should, however, remember that targets themselves are not the mechanisms of change. It appears that many countries will miss their Kyoto targets, and the first Millennium Development Goals on primary school education have already been missed. In addition, studies have long shown that focusing on meeting targets can have unintended consequences and undermine true progress. The solution may be for wider coalitions of groups to apply themselves to the factors that shape our economy: to explore ways of collaborating to shift whole markets.
(The references are available in the pdf download and hard copy versions of this annual review, available from Lifeworth’s bookstore.)
This section can be referenced as:
Bendell, J., and N. Alam, S. Lin, C. Ng, L. Rimando, C. Veuthey, B. Wettstein (2009) The Eastern Turn in Responsible Enterprise: A Yearly Review of Corporate Responsibility from Lifeworth, Lifeworth: Manila, Philippines.
(Page numbers for this section are available in the pdf download and hardcopy.)