Last week I was at CommsCon, an event for PR and communications professionals, and I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Wayne Burns, Director of the Centre of Corporate Affairs, about the future and importance of corporate responsibility.

One of the things that stuck with me was that we can’t look at corporate responsibility as just being a program anymore – it’s a way of managing a business.

It is fair to say that the language around the board table has changed. Twenty five years ago, maximising returns to shareholders was based around the view that the business of business is business. Today CEOs and boards are increasingly looking at providing sustainable returns to shareholders while also creating a better business for all the stakeholders.

Only a few years ago, the talk was all about CSR and how big corporations had to give back to the community. While this is still important, companies need to take a more sophisticated view and consider the wider impact they can have across safety, smarter offering, people, environment and fair play.

Corporate responsibility needs to be an integral part of a business’ underlying strategy and addressed at board level, to engage with stakeholders and understand that employees are increasingly keen to play a part.

For the next generation of CEOs, the idea of creating a sustainable business, rather than just producing returns, comes naturally and current executives who fail to take corporate responsibility seriously will struggle to survive in an age where stakeholders are becoming more focused on the issue.

As CEOs increasingly see themselves as stewards of the company they are running and aim to leave it in a better shape, it is important to understand that corporate responsibility implies making decisions and ask the question: ‘how is this going to impact our stakeholders, do we understand our stakeholder priorities'.

In the next 15 years, socio-political developments will impact business conditions considerably making it crucial for companies to prepare to become future-proofed. The ones that cannot adapt in the very near future are not likely be in business in 10, 20, or 30 years’ time.

Marcha van den Heuvel, Senior Account Manager, H+K Strategies Australia

Earth Hour logo

As a global community we've recently observed both Earth Day and Earth Hour. In the post below Metin Parlak, of H+K Strategies London, compares the two and their different approaches to the same cause. 

We are increasingly dividing the year with commas to mark symbolic dates: International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day being two recent examples. Tuesday, April 22nd, however, is reserved for a different type of special lady: Mother Earth.

Earth Day began in 1970 and was the brainchild of U.S. Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson. The immediate catalyst was an oil spill in California, but the wider social context of anti-war protests and an infant environmental movement made its formation very timely.

Google, as per modern tradition, set the tone with its doodle of a Rufous hummingbird, veiled chameleon, moon jellyfish, dung beetle, puffer fish and macaques. This attracted the bulk of the media coverage of the day but the real salute must go to NASA for its Global Selfie campaign.

NASA called on the world to share their selfies which they’ll then turn into a mosaic of the earth. Slightly cheesy, but nevertheless a nice ‘on brand’ campaign by an organisation that makes most people on earth get excited like giddy children at their very mention.  If any brand or organisation should lead the charge on Earth Day (that isn’t an environmental campaign organisation like Greenpeace) my vote would go to NASA, the world’s space agency.

Earth Day, like the most successful symbolic days, works because it has unity, consciousness and action at its heart. It delegates the action to people and companies to celebrate it in whatever way they like. This freedom is important as it allows the day to be reinvented in many ways but isn’t the only approach.

WWF’s ‘Earth Hour’ calls on the world’s population to switch off their lights for a set hour on March 29th. The campaign has grown year on year with cities and towns in 154 countries having taken part in 2013, and 162 in 2014.  This year they managed to get Spider Man on board as an example of an ordinary guy making a big difference (another approach could have been Batman with his wealth and resources to shoulder a greater burden but I’ve heard he was ‘busy’).

Celebrities are also queuing outside WWF offices to lend their support, and brands - as with Earth Day - are launching advertising campaigns around the event. My favourite campaign in this camp was by Durex due to its super simple concept that marries Earth Hour and the brand so well: ‘switch off to switch on’ (the irony of using a Twitter hashtag clearly wasn’t lost on the producers, however).

The two will continue to grow in future as the environment and sustainability remain entrenched as core issues that the public and companies cannot ignore. They’re also interesting to observe as campaigns due to their communicating the same issues but in very different ways: the top-down approach works for WWF because it is a simple action that encapsulates the broader message so well while the democratised Earth Day is a free-for-all of creativity that is comprised of many smaller campaigns. Whichever method you prefer, they’re certainly causes worth backing!

Metin Parlak is a Junior Account Executive at H+K Strategies London. 

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