What is the Changing Face of Corporate Citizenship? Global Leaders Square OffRead All Posts
How has corporate social responsibility changed over the years, and what are some of the emerging CSR trends that could impact global companies in the coming decade? Last evening, a panel of global business leaders offered a range of opinions and perspectives on the subject at a roundtable discussion jointly sponsored by the International Youth Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Maria Cattaui, a champion of the role of business in the global economy and an IYF Board Member from Switzerland, jumped right into the discussion. “I don’t even like the phrase corporate social responsibility anymore, because it’s outdated,” she began. “It’s no longer a PR-related sponsorship of doing nice things; it must be imbedded in the company itself—in its strategies and the way it operates.” She added that CSR is no longer “at the whim” of the CEO or the shareholders, but is something that is at the core of a company that adds and creates value.
Running a profitable, lawful, transparent and well run company is of course the top priority of any business, said Robert Mosbacher, Jr., who served as the former president and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and worked with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Mr. Mosbacher agreed with Ms. Cataui that the more CSR activities are moved over to and integrated with the profit side of the company, the better. “We don’t need any more photo ops,” he said. “We need to make lasting contributions that will also support core business interests.”
The discussion moved to the importance of companies providing both financial and employee support for community-based organizations and activities as part of their CSR efforts. Michael D. Hankin, CEO of Brown Advisory in Baltimore, noted that such a commitment to community needs to be authentic in order to engage and recruit employees in those efforts. His company, for example, is playing a significant role in supporting a local public school.
Helio Mattar, a business leader from Brazil and also an IYF board member, underscored the growing demands on companies to take more responsibility for their impact on the environment, on society, and on individuals—given the enormous financial and social power they have gained over the years. “Of the top 100 economies in the world,” Mr. Mattar reminded the group, “some thirty of them are companies, not countries.” A passionate sustainable development advocate, he said companies must make dramatic changes in order to protect the planet—moving from global to local; from individual to shared ownership; from fossil to renewable fuels; and from producing disposable goods to durable ones. Sounds right to me!