What’s great about the annual Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Conference is that it convenes all the business leaders who truly get CSR from around the globe. We gather together once a year to strut our stuff and show off working examples of how we get “it” – providing insight for the choice few in the audience who don’t get “it” and inspiring everyone to push “it” even further. This “it” is the vision for every company to embed responsibility into its business strategy.
One message was clear across all sessions – social responsibility is no longer an option for companies – it is required. This doesn’t mean CSR needs to be a burden. In fact, leaders who graced the stage at BSR expressed the exact opposite, and detailed how operating with responsibility has lead to increased trust and value among stakeholders. To pull a few key points:
Event keynote Al Gore noted that “the days of trading values for value are over.” He says business responsibility is closely tied to brand value, including the ability to recruit and retain talented employees, and motivation to innovate for the future. (As is often a result of pressure to become more efficient and focused in business operations.)
Carlos Brito of Anheuser-Busch InBev pointed out that a company’s progress and position on social responsibility will be a key hiring factor in the future, as younger generations become more demanding of potential employers. (A point Robert Rosenthal also noted as a theme from the 2011 Net Impact Conference.)
Ofra Strauss of the Strauss Group claimed financial performance no longer matters in business. She says trust long-term reputation are most important, since these will dictate the sustainability of the company over time and its ability to do business in the future.
Each of these leaders have transformed the way they think of business strategy to meet the growing demand for purpose to be embedded in business philosophy. Each speaker at the BSR conference gets “it” – they understand that values can lead to business value.
My question is – what is up with the rest of the business world? Why are we still arguing over the short-term bottom line in a time when trust in businesses is low, and their ability to sustain relies on this consumer trust?
The theme of the BSR conference this year was “Redefining Leadership,” and those who took the stage are truly leaders paving the way for the business world. The time has come for the rest of us to step up and make responsibility the “it” in their business strategies, too. To me, the vision is clear and obvious.