The economic and geopolitical world is changing fast, so what will corporate CSR policies look like by 2015 and even further ahead? Giles Crosse talks with Michael Spanos, managing partner at the sustainability consultancy Global Sustain.
3 mins to read
SALT: What strategic changes will we see in 2015 as corporates address social, economic and environmental issues?
Michael Spanos: Looking back in 2014, issues such as financial disruption, poverty, climate change, human rights and bribery, formed a great part of the global political and activist agenda. The question is what can be done, in order to eliminate these problems and shape a sustainable tomorrow? Change is on the way and as far as Europe is concerned, sustainability is no longer an abstract idea. It’s a fact. The European regulation for the disclosure of non-financial information is on the way. New national strategies all over the world on mandatory reporting demonstrate the change of corporate and state mentalities.
SALT: Can sustainability reporting ever be enough? Corporate abuses continue. Can profit and CSR ever be satisfactorily married?
Michael Spanos: Sustainability disclosure and transparency is of great importance. Reporting is not an abstract process any organization can follow. External assurance of the reports increases the accuracy and trustworthiness of the information. Organizations that seek assurance for the credibility of their reports are unlikely to engage in corporate abuses. There is no doubt that profit and CSR are interlinked. Sustainability reporting helps organizations to understand the links between sustainability and strategy, goal setting and performance measurement.
SALT: Is sustainability science sufficiently advanced to be meaningful? Could we get one global reporting standard for firms?
Michael Spanos: Sustainability science is advancing to balance the needs of organizations and challenges. Organizations are encouraged to rely on recognized frameworks, such as GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 26000 and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Tripartite Declaration. All these standards provide mechanisms for better and meaningful reporting, with ultimate purpose the common welfare. The possibility of one global reporting standard for firms may be realized through integrated reporting frameworks that the International Integrated Reporting Council is working on.
SALT: Should governments, or the UN, take more responsibility for dealing with corporate malpractice? Can we stop developing governments from allowing corporate malpractice in exchange for foreign investment?
Michael Spanos: Corporate malpractice should be addressed within the international regulatory framework. Crucial issues, such as corruption, bribery and human rights abuses, are of global interest and should be condemned by all governments. In particular, developing governments should be educated about how sustainability can be combined with profitability. International organizations, such as the UN, particularly through the Ten Principles of the United National Global Compact, could take over the difficult task of creating a sustainable culture. Moreover, investors should integrate environmental, social and governance issues (ESG) before allocating their assets. Responsible investment requires investors and companies to take a wider view, acknowledging the full spectrum of risks and opportunities, in order to allocate capital in a sustainable and ethical manner.
SALT: How will the corporate world have changed by 2020?
Michael Spanos: At a time of profound geopolitical and economic transformation, leaders must engage in a new type of growth. The truth is that economic models that two decades ago seemed attractive are now uncompetitive. The world must cope with a new financial and social landscape .We need pioneering corporations, organizations and CEOs that embrace sustainability and are eager to explore more effective and sustainable ways of growth.
Collaborations with NGOs, governments and civil society, green economy, innovation in education and social entrepreneurship and transparency can all leverage sustainability. Partnerships are needed more than ever. Poverty, environmental degradation, population growth and financial disruptions are inextricably linked and none of these fundamental problems can be successfully addressed in isolation.
By incorporating sustainability, organizations boost financial, social and environmental capital, provide new and safe products, improve social welfare, lower environmental impact and enhance corporate reputation. Sustainability is becoming more integrated into companies and according to the findings of the paper, “Joining Forces Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability,” by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact, the number of companies that have sustainability as a top management agenda item jumped from 46% in 2010 to 65% in 2014.There is no doubt that the corporate world will change to address critical and complex business issues and secure shared value creation.
Since 2006, Michael has been the Managing Partner of Global Sustain, providing leadership in sustainability strategy issues, corporate responsibility (CR) measurement and reporting. He works with the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the United Nations Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
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