3 Must-Read Articles on Sustainability and CSR

by Aman Singh Das | October 26, 2010

  • My Vault

Look, sustainability is suddenly a newsworthy buzzword! In the past week alone, I have been swamped trying to keep up with the explosion of editorials and write-ups on the importance of corporate social responsibility, analyses of what sustainability is, why it is the next big indicator of business success, and more.

Torn between deciding what articles must be on your reading list? Here are some of the best pieces from recent days.

Corporate Leadership for the 21st Century: Sustainability Experience Required

Fast Company

Alice Korngold, a friend of this blog, argues why experience in environmental sustainability and social issues is going to be a required qualification for the top post as well as board membership going forward.

Citing a new study by Calvert Investments and The Corporate Library that reported "65% of the Standard & Poor's 100 companies have board committees with oversight of corporate responsibility issues," Korngold offers her observations from the recent Clinton Global Initiative as further argument.

Noteworthy: "The emergence of environmental and social issues on corporate board agendas is a recent phenomenon. Company leaders are recognizing that in order to build shareholder value, they must concern themselves with the longer term availability and affordability of renewable resources; the public's perception of their brand; and opportunities to develop new markets in developing countries."

Companies Aren't Charities

The Economist

Need a briefing on the many nuances of CSR? Then this is a must for your bookmarks. The Economist's Schumpeter blog highlights The Case for Business in Developing Economies, the latest book by Ann Bernstein, the head of South African think-tank Centre for Development and Enterprise. In it, Bernstein writes that advocates of corporate social responsibility tend to miss the point of what companies excel at: making profits. "They may also be reasonably adept at other things, such as modeling sunglasses or forming task forces to solve environmental problems. But their chief contribution to society comes from their area of specialization," she argues.

What's the difference between this and Professor Aneel Karnani's earlier this year that sparked debates and panel discussions on the case for and against CSR? Bernstein's perspective lends itself to the many obstacles of pursuing CSR in developing economies.

Noteworthy: "In South Africa, where more than a third of the workforce is jobless, the problem is not that corporations are unethical but that there are not enough of them. One reason is that South Africa’s leaders blithely heap social responsibilities on corporate shoulders. Strict environmental laws cause long delays in building homes. This is nice for endangered butterflies, but tough for South Africans who live in shacks."

'Sustainability' runs on ethics

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A clean attempt at defining what sustainability means and involves. The article takes you through the different ways companies define the term including H.J. Heinz ("sustainability means our company is dedicated to protecting people and the planet, and driving sustainable growth that enhances shareholder value"), and Alcoa ("We like to say that sustainability is part of our DNA"); and schools like Duquesne University, which offers a 12-month MBA Sustainability degree ("Financial success relates to the ethical conduct of a company, its environmental impact and connections to the communities it operates in").

Noteworthy: "The concept of "sustainability" seems to be — as the word itself implies — here to stay. It's increasingly embedded in business, government and elsewhere. In less than two weeks, for example, Pittsburgh will host two conferences around sustainability themes: a "green building" conference Downtown and a business ethics conference in Oakland."

Got more must-read commentaries to share? Please do so by leaving a comment below, emailing me In Good Company or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR!

Filed Under: CSR

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