As a proponent of a more holistic view of sustainability, the decisions that I make about what I buy, what I eat, where I shop, are an important part of my commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle. It seems that finally companies and investors are taking note. They are offering a slew of more natural, earth friendly, sustainable, and green products and services along with attempting themselves to be a better business in terms of their social, environmental, and financial impacts, also known as the Triple Bottom Line or 3BL (Elkington, 1997).
If you want a little insight into how important our purchasing decisions are to our social, environmental, and financial welfare this Story of Stuff Video will give you an overview:
It seems am not alone in my commitment to purchasing more sustainable products from businesses whose practices are also sustainable. The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility (Nielsen, 2015) polled consumers in order to understand: how passionate consumers are about sustainable practices when it comes to purchase considerations and which consumer segments are most supportive of ecological or other socially responsible efforts; and which social issues/causes are attracting the most concern. Of the 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, 52% say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company (Nielsen, 2015) and putting their money where their mouth is.
This video will give you a short history of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) along with some definitions below:
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): “a business outlook that acknowledges responsibilities to stakeholders not traditionally accepted, including suppliers, customers, and employees as well as local and international communities in which it operates and the natural environment” (Dictionary of Sustainable Management, 2014)
Corporate Sustainability (CS): “corporate sustainability can accordingly be defined as meeting the needs of a firm’s direct and indirect stakeholders (such as shareholders, employees, clients, pressure groups, communities, etc.), without compromising its ability to meet the needs of future stakeholders as well” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987)
There are some challenges to measuring how good or bad the company’s business practices may be, but Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become one of the ways to measure a company’s commitment to a more sustainable future. I chose this definition was chosen as it includes the social, environmental, and stakeholder dimensions outlined by Dahlsrud (2008).
So how can you, as a consumer, use this information about corporate social responsibility (CSR) to inform your buying decisions? There are a few websites out there, like GreenBiz.com whose mission it is to “advances the opportunities at the intersection of business, technology and sustainability” (GreenBiz, 2015). They provide weekly GreenBuzz email blasts about current trends in sustainable business as well as their annual report, the State of Green Business Report that you can access on their website for free. There website is full of articles, blogs, and media around current trends and insights, on sustainable business and has separate sections for topics such as energy, design, building, transportation, etc. There are also Apps for your smartphone, like GoodGuide, that allow you to scan the product’s bar code and get a rating of that product’s GoodGuide (GG) score from 1-10 based on the health, environment, and social impacts of the products using information from a life cycle assessment (LCA) of environmental impacts, the company level of transparency in their processes, the business’s practices (fair wages, working conditions), and products with ingredients that are of health or regulatory concern (EPA’s list of chemicals of concern).
“About Us.” GreenBiz. GreenBiz Group – GreenBiz.com, Web. 14 July 2015. http://www.greenbiz.com/about-us.
Dictionary of Sustainable Management. (2014). “CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)”. Retrieved from http://www.sustainabilitydictionary.com/index.php?s=csr.
Dahlsrud, A. (2008). How corporate social responsibility is defined: an analysis of 37 definitions. Corporate social responsibility and environmental management, 15(1), 1-13.
Elkington, J. (1997). Cannibals with forks. The triple bottom line of 21st century. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society.
“Global Consumers Are Willing to Put Their Money Where Their Heart Is When It Comes to Goods and Services from Companies Committed to Social Responsibility.” Nielsen Press Room. The Nielsen Company, 17 June 2014. Web. 14 July 2015. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2014/global-consumers-are-willing-to-put-their-money-where-their-heart-is.html.
“Ratings.” About Ratings. GoodGuide, Inc., Web. 14 July 2015. http://www.goodguide.com/about/ratings.
World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future (Vol. 383). Oxford: Oxford University Press.