CSR Now a Business Imperative
As Chair of the session on governance mechanisms that underscore good corporate responsibility practices, Dobbie shares her thoughts on transparency, data quality and economic, social and governance performance.
I think it’s reasonable to assume that the company I work for has become synonymous with a number of things.
The “Bloomberg Professional service” would be top-of-mind for financial services professionals, “Bloomberg News” for an even broader swathe of the business community or individual investors, and “Bloomberg Philanthropy” for the many different causes we support around the world from the arts, education to the environment.
I take pride in all of the above. Not least because – and in the context of my involvement in next week’s ACCSR conference on the state of CSR in Australia – one of the increasingly valued services we provide is in integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) information into the data we provide to subscribers about companies.
“Intangible assets” — which now are generally acknowledged to contribute a not insignificant portion of a company’s value –are being scrutinised more closely than ever before; rightly so when you look at some of the corporate behaviour that has been exposed in the past several years.
Smart companies have responded well. They realise that CSR – though only one element of ESG responsibilities — has become a business imperative. Many companies also have reached the enlightened conclusion that for CSR to be sustainable – and at its most impactful – it must be linked to core competencies and aligned to business assets and interests. They know they are being watched – and if they are truly responsible organisations they welcome it.
The introduction of the Bloomberg Professional service in 1982 was based on a vision to provide comprehensive financial tools and data on a single platform. But to be honest, I can’t imagine that, more than 30 years ago, anyone within Bloomberg really envisaged that information and data about a company’s approach and commitment to things like social responsibility and sustainability would become such a critical element of our service.
Fast forward to today – or rather 2008 when we launched ESG – and this kind of data’s place on each terminal screen has become as fundamental to our offering as any of the other data sought by investors, analysts and corporate executives.
They are aware that ESG practices— sustainability, resource efficiency, good community relations and many others — can have a direct impact on companies’ reputations, value and performance. Governments, regulatory bodies and exchanges are also increasingly focused on ESG data disclosure.
A Harvard Business Review study by Professor Robert Eccles found that firms that strategically incorporate good ESG practices over the long run outperform their peers – which in any sensible boardroom must have implications.
It also has significant relevance to what will be discussed at next week’s ACCSR Conference on Responsible Leadership.
The scrutiny companies now face and the the information and tools available to do so — have rendered virtually worthless the kind of checkbook CSR which used to shout “look at us, we’re doing something good” – in the belief that this alone would afford protection in the event of them doing something bad.
Of course, many companies still look at some aspects of CSR partly as a goodwill insurance-policy initiative. That’s not entirely disingenuous as long as a much “deeper-dive” examination — which credible ESG information affords — reveals a company which, as a matter of corporate culture and policy, takes its environmental, social and governance responsibilities very seriously indeed.
Among the questions that the session I’m chairing next week will address will be an examination of the common pitfalls and rules for success in CSR and the structure required to embed CSR into the way a business is run.
Without pre-empting the discussion, I’d suggest that one pitfall is the very idea that just the act of undertaking a CSR program has any long-term benefit for an organisation; because if it’s just a cosmetic exercise – if it’s not embedded into the way a business is run – then someone, somehow is going to find out. And there are bottom-line consequences.
With a decade of experience assisting private firms, non-profits and government agencies to plan and advance their sustainable development agendas, Sara's career is committed to creating shared value for communities and companies through evidence-based decision-making, risk management and strong stakeholder engagement.
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