The Year of the Dragon could prove to be auspicious for advances in Corporate Social Responsibility. The Dragon is said to bring the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity. If we place corporations (including those nowmeeting in Davos for the World Economic Forum) in the role of the Dragon, here's what we'd like to see them deliver this year:
The current economic crisis is top of everyone's mind. The WEF suggests we all need to do More With Less. The OECD is predicting a decline in cash disbursements from government to not-for-profit organizations, reducing or removing what is often their core source of funding. The Occupy Movement is seeking economic equality. Money, particularly lack of it, is big news. Some say there is value in austerity as a trigger for ingenuity and innovation.
For people, businesses and the planet to prosper, efforts need to be directed to solutions that are both sustainable and responsible - from an ethical and sustainable supply chain to engaged employees to respect and support for the wider community and the environment.
The time has come to go beyond mere transparency to hyper-transparency (those companies who don't reveal much will have a lot of catching up to do). Consumers are demanding to know what their dollars are supporting and corporations can go a long way toward garnering trust by baring all. Trumpet your positive efforts as a call for others to follow suit.
But virtue goes beyond just doing good business. It means doing good beyond the boardroom. We want to see companies advocating for change. Among those leading the way are Unilever (sustainable agriculture, promoting health and wellness, advocating sustainable living), Campbell's (nutritional advocacy, youth engagement activities), and The Body Shop (promoting fair trade, advocating for the protection of human rights).
Without a holistic, integrated and strategic approach, Corporate Social Responsibility will fall far short of its potential. Transformational partnerships between the private sector, not-for-profits, governments, and agencies like the UN would spark innovation and leverage bright minds across all sectors to create sustainable solutions.
This could be particularly useful in emerging economies with their prevalence of state-owned enterprises which are often stable but lacking the capacity for innovation to drive change.
In order for both business and the planet to thrive, solutions need to be creative and long-lasting. Starting with the supply chain, ensure that every step taken to generate profit also creates positive effects for the local economies, people and the environment. Environmental and human rights abuses can no longer be tolerated. Ever.
The Dragon is full of larger-than-life, fiery passion. Let's harness that energy and direct it toward making long-overdue change. For good.
What changes would you like to see in the Year of the Dragon?