No. 1 Business Concern for Execs: Social Responsibility? Just Kidding!

by Aman Singh Das | March 11, 2010

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As a senior executive in banking, accounting, consulting, or as a law firm partner, what is your top most concern these days? Consumer demand? Trust? Profits? Bonuses? Or maybe hiring? Probably not Corporate Responsibility though, right? If you just said yes to that, I'll give you the benefit of doubt but assume that it is a lot lower on the "concern" list.

This isn't about to become a post about bashing all your irresponsible corporate czars. So relax. Yeah, whew. We, so don't need another CSR advocate ranting first thing in the morning. I know, I get it. So here is a new survey as food for thought. Conducted by the Consumer Goods Forum, it asked 345 CEOs and senior executives at retail and consumer goods companies across 46 countries to vote for their top concern. "From a list of twelve broad subjects, respondents were asked to choose their top three priorities for the coming year, and rank them in order of importance."

Now just to reiterate, as executives of the bastions of professional white-collar jobs, i.e., financial services--investment banking, retail and commercial banking, accounting, insurance, private equity, etc.-- and consulting, there is something to learn from these results. While the winner was the economy and consumer demand with over half of the respondents calling it their No. 1 concern, No. 2 was the shocker: Corporate Social Responsibility, with over a third of the respondents saying it was a top concern.

There are two ways to look at this. One, as I mentioned, is from the professional services point of view: Shock and disbelief that CSR has climbed to one of the two most important concerns for companies, while they have been busy worrying about bonuses, profits, layoffs and just lying low. The second, is from the viewpoint of the consumer products and manufacturing industries, who would say it is in response to demands from stakeholders. Remember, Wal-mart is currently working on creating an industry-wide Sustainability Index; as consumers we are increasingly demanding organic, chemical-free products; employees are putting pressure internally to green their office spaces; and board of directors are giving in to demand from the media and sustainability forums to begin addressing the way they do business.

The question we are left with is this: When will companies, irrespective of product, reputation or pressure, realize that the path to becoming responsible citizens is one that starts internally? For consumer products, it took the world's largest retailer to institute mandatory regulations on their sustainability index, to take note and institute eco-officers and teams focused on making them environmentally-friendly. We cannot wait for government regulation. So, what will it take for the creative, analysis and thought-driven marketplace to stand up and address the importance of being accountable for their social, communal, environmental and bottom line decisions?

Your opinions are important and we love hearing from you. So go ahead, don't stop here. Leave a comment (come on, all it takes is a free membership!), email us at In Good Company, or simply follow us on Twitter! It's that easy.

For the complete survey, visit Australian Food News.

Filed Under: CSR

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