March CSR Lunch Summary: CSR, where is it heading?

Tracey Keys, Director at Strategy Dynamics Global SA and publisher of, presented very interesting insights for our CSR Lunch Discussion March 19th on where CSR has come from, where CEOs see the state of play today, and what could be driving influences on how CSR develops in the future.Where has CSR come from?

CSR has come from a resource issue, but has evolved towards a shared issue for business & society:

  • The world is getting more crowded, older, more urban and more mobile
  • Natural resources are under pressure – by 2030 we will demand 2 times the renewable resources
  • Water insecurity is a critical risk – only outpaced by financial crises & climate change
  • A generational shift in economic power is underway from west to east and from north to south
  • Consumption by the global middle class will increase dramatically contributing to the global problem of waste, which has increased ten-fold over the last century.

CSR – where are we today?

Of the world’s top 100 economic entities in 2012, 40 were corporations. As a result there is an increasing recognition of the interdependence between business and society. Sustainability is high on the agenda, as companies seek to earn license to operate. However, social responsibility is more than that, it’s also:

  • Addressing inequalities, e.g. youth unemployment
  • Engaging actively in educating for the skills of the future
  • Becoming a desirable partner/supplier
  • Ensuring transparency and openness, while respecting privacy and information
  • Moving beyond compliance to proactive action for the benefit of both business and society

Overall, societal expectations of businesses are increasing. The CSR ladder is changing step by step from 0.

Pet projects, to 1. Philanthropy, to 2. Focused partnerships, to 3. Earning license to operate, to level 4: Shared value / responsible capitalism. Although more and more businesses are moving towards increasing positive interactions between business and society, many (most) firms talk stages 3 and 4, and live stages 1 and 2.

So, CSR – where is it heading?

  1. New technologies will help to improve sustainability and activities in levels 2 and 3 CSR, e.g. robotics, waste conversion technologies, smart materials (e.g. edible packaging already exists).
  2. The circular economy is driving the reframing of strategies and business models.
  3. CSR – or its equivalent – is becoming integrated into purpose and mission in companies at the forefront of level 4 (for example Nestle, DSM, and Mahindra).
  4. Networks will be increasingly important, The crowd is helping to redefine value creation, addressing societal challenges and driving innovation (e.g. hybrid business models, like PatientsLikeMe)
  5. More and more stakeholders are aware and taking action.

However, the biggest challenge will be changing the consumer mindset & behaviors.

So is CSR heading towards the right direction – the happy end?
Is CSR is an integral part of business?
Not yet, but this should become reality, to have only companies creating shared value.

By Sophie Wisbrun-Overakker, 2014-15 CAS-DAS CSR participant

Download the summary here.