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Are My 2015 CSR Trends Still Trending?

July 27 2015

Midsummer seems like a good time to examine whether the five global trends that I identified as those likely to impact the work of CSR professionals this year [January 12, 2015] are still trending. So, here goes:

  • An improving global economy. At the beginning of 2015, most economists were predicting an improving economy worldwide. Despite the recent debt crisis in Greece and a gyrating stock market in China, the World Economic Outlook hasn't backed away from its statement that global growth remains moderate and should reach 3.5 percent in 2015. This remains mostly good news for businesses, but global markets and competition will continue to push bottom-line concerns and force many companies to do more at lower cost to compete.
  • An increasing commitment to sustainability. In January, the Kjaer Global Trend Snapshots 2015 stated that we consume 26 times more than we did 150 years ago, but only 28 percent of people know what terms like "sustainable," "responsible," "eco-friendly" and "green" really mean, and just 44 percent trust green claims from big brands. Nonetheless, issues of sustainability keep growing in importance in a number of industries, and Pope Francis has aided the cause by issuing an encyclical - a formal statement of the Vatican's views on an issue - that highlights the impact that climate change will have on humanity, especially poor and vulnerable populations. A recent Vatican climate change meeting concluded that "Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity."
  • An increasing focus on income inequality. 2015 is the target date for the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, and the first target - halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty globally - has been largely met. However, issues of extreme - and growing - income inequality persist. According to the United Nation's World Economic and Social Survey, global income inequality has receded slightly in recent years, but inequalities within many countries have been rising. A number of government and community leaders around the world have taken up the mantel of income inequality this year, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has asserted that "It's impossible to overcome widening economic inequality without also dealing with a legacy of racial inequality." President Obama recently called income inequality "the defining challenge of our time."
  • A fresh look at conscious capitalism. A number of surveys have shown that people want to work for companies that are making a positive difference in the world, and increasingly consumers want to buy from these companies and investors want to invest in them. At the same time, people remain skeptical of what companies say about their responsible behavior. In a recent Aspen Institute statement published in Time Ideas, [July 8, 2015] U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez advocated that companies update and re-adopt the Sullivan Principles, a code of conduct that was developed in 1977 by the Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan that included concepts of equal pay, non-segregation, training opportunities and quality of life in housing, transportation, education and health as a way of providing a catalyst for more change.
  • A serious look at disruptive companies. While the idea of disruption in the marketplace has garnered sizeable investments from venture capitalists and generally favorable notices from the media, increasing financial and public relations issues with a number of disruptive companies are leading some to question whether all disruption is good. As I write this blog, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Uber have called a truce in their dispute over the number of licensed drivers in the city, but the company continues to have problems with taxi unions and politicians in other cities such as Paris. And, Airbnb faces a ballot initiative in San Francisco that would limit Airbnb rentals to 75 days and also ban the rental of in-law units, which are apartments attached to homes but having separate entryways, and allow city residents to sue each other for illegal Airbnb rentals. These are signs that innovative companies will continue to face obstacles from regulators and established institutions despite being embraced by consumers.

If you have a question or comment, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and let's start a conversation there.

In two weeks: Conscious Capitalism as a Movement


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