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THE TRANSITION FROM CSR TO SUSTAINABILITY

Posted: Friday 2 March 12, 1.35pm GMT

The Pathway towards evolution: from responsible corporations to protagonists of a sustainable world

Saying that there are noticeable differences between being a socially responsible company and being a sustainable company is like looking for the differences between truth and sincerity, or between transparency and clarity.

Recently, we have seen many companies changing their CSR management areas or departments into sustainability management areas or departments. Even if for some of these companies, the different ways of naming their specialised areas in the subject has no relevance; in many cases this shows an evolution that has to be paid close attention to.

After more than 10 years of working in the subject, IARSE has registered the conceptual changes that CSR has gone through, and above all, It has paid close attention to the evolution of the practise of this concept. The subject has given a complete U-turn in a very short period.

From associating the idea to a social action or philanthropy, now we associate the concept to a current way of understanding it as a management model. Therefore, the transparency of reporting what was done in the subject also changed: from making public the how much or what percentage of the profits were used in community actions, now we report on how the profits are generated. Part of these profits should also continue to be invested on public goods issues.

What happened in between is that the way in which society legitimises corporate success has significantly changed. Those that are understanding the depth and seriousness of these context changes, have rapidly taken an improvement path. This path is guiding them to analyse all of their processes that generate impacts (economic, social, environmental and ethic), to draw new risk maps, and thus, to address new CSR or Sustainability strategic plans, that in the face of the endless opportunities the business offers to create new multiple forms of value, can encourage leader companies to be recognised by their everyday activities.

This is why many have decided to give a new name to this approach; that is, in fact, qualified as more strategic, and certainly closely related now to present and future competitiveness. This explains the decision to migrate the language; to talk now about inward and outward sustainability. This does not mean the idea of social responsibility is left aside, rather, it is incorporated in everyday activities and decisions that can make a difference. We should not believe that those companies that are still talking about CSR are behind in terms of ideas or actions, much on the contrary. The new business map is drawn in this subject distinguishing those who can show their management style and the type of relationship they have with their stakeholders are governed by a responsible behaviour that pursues sustainability as the ultimate goal. In this way, those companies that are able to communicate and clearly show how their creation of value is defined: to themselves, to the society and to the planet, are the ones that are heading the challenge of being valued as companies and brand names daily contributing towards sustainability.

No organisation is better than their people; therefore, the basis where a great difference arises can be seen in those companies that invest on training, educating, sensitising and updating their staff members and executives in what we call today: a RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY. The wonderful energy possessed by those who make decisions everyday in the company should be activated –and released- so that the company can create, measure and communicate all the social, ethic, environmental and economic value that is capable of generating.

Many companies are talking now about sustainability. We see a lot of advertising, and we are to see a lot more in the near future, using this word. Some of them, try to be convincing as per what they say. Others, try to excel by means of their honest search of coherence between what they say and what they do. Those that are taking this evolutionary path seriously are the ones that have understood that their sustainability ratio is always equivalent to the ratio of their people who has understood that everyday, from their positions, they can build another way of being a company,and another scenario for the wellbeing and progress for all.

Lic. Luis Ulla – Executive Director of the Argentine Institute of Corporate Social Responsibility – IARSE




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