CSR and a New Vision for the Future

UK CSR experts are encouraging businesses to move beyond small incremental steps to a larger transformational change.

Business in the Community (BITC) has today (18 March) launched a new programme called Visioning the Future. Its aim is to help businesses picture, plan and build business models that are both successful and sustainable.

To help support businesses on this CSR journey, BITC has produced an analysis of the drivers and trends which it believes will lead to change.

The analysis is presented in the form of a report, which will help businesses look at both opportunities and risks to them in the global economy. However, this is framed entirely within the CSR context, looking at how profits can be made at the same time as ensuring the well being of society and the planet.

BITC has long argued that it is possible to have a sustainable business model that is also profitable. The launch of this programme is part of that ethos.

It invites businesses to examine their operations in the light of six key trends. These are: The shift to emerging markets, scarcity of natural resources, protectionism, the need for transparency, the increasingly global nature of community and a shift in consumer values.

It points out that the UK is going down the rankings of GDP and will in 9th place by 2050 (from its current position at number six). The top economies will then be China, USA, India and Brazil. This could mean greater opportunity for UK business – but only if they adapt. The need for low-cost and low energy ways to serve new markets will be key. In the future, customers will be increasingly global.

Companies will also need to fight for talent in a global marketplace. Having well-developed CSR strategies and programmes will help attract and retain that talent.

An argument is made for free trade – as well as pointing out the importance of fair trade where markets are unequal. Success will come when fair trade is part of mainstream business practice. The example of Kenyan company Safricom, shows how being flexible to the needs of the poor, can also result in business success. The company launched M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service which allows people to complete banking transactions such as depositing money or paying bills, without needing to qualify for traditional banking. An astonishing 65% of households in Kenya use it, and it accounts for almost 20% of Kenyan GDP.

Inspiration can come from small or large firms, anywhere in the world, and the BITC’s programme (and its supporting analysis) aims to bring those together to show what is possible.

Speaking at the programme launch, Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive of DIY experts Kingfisher plc, pointed out the incentive for action:
“The changes we are likely to see in our society and environment over the next two decades and beyond will require a paradigm shift in the economy and society. The companies that recognise and plan for it now will be the winners of the future. We need to think now about how business services will evolve in the next two decades and beyond. The opportunities are real for those who help create a sustainable future.”


Photo credit: Ian Muttoo