CBSR Summit 2010

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I spent last week in Toronto, ON attending the 8th Annual Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) Summit on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The theme for the event was “Collaborating for Sustainable Change”.

A business case for social responsibility

I participated in a workshop prior to the all day summit focused on creating a Business Case for Social Responsibility. After all, if there’s to be meaningful change on the sustainability/CSR front, there needs to be something in it for the business sector.

As it was explained in the workshop, the economic capital of a business is a product of two things, Natural Capital and Human & Social capital. It is the combination of these attributes that creates meaningful value for a business. It’s been shown that the exploration and use of natural capital is a viable way to turn a profit. However, as natural resources decline, the focus seems to, and needs to, turn towards how we can improve the human and social capital within a business.

To this end, educating your workforce and hiring experienced personnel is a good step, and something that’s applied across the board. But what if integrating CSR practices could increase human and social capital and, in turn, make your business more profitable?

In a study conducted by CBSR and Hewitt, it was shown that the more employees believe their companies are socially and environmentally responsible, the more engaged they are at the workplace. A more engaged workforce leads to significantly less absenteeism, employee turnover, theft, and safety incidents. On the flip side, significant increases in customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability!

If you aren’t already sold on the idea, let’s think briefly about growing your business in the long run. In order to grow, businesses need to attract investors to help them achieve desired goals. Now, more than ever, investors are paying attention to greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage as a measure of the long term stability of a company. One such group of investors has created the Carbon Disclosure Project, representing 534 institutional investors, with a combined $64 trillion in assets. With this kind of financial big-hitter paying attention to environmental and related CSR practices, no wonder so many companies are here this week to learn what they can do to integrate CSR into their own operations.

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