Now that stakeholders - including consumers, investors, and employees - pay increasing attention to the social and environmental footprints of business, corporate-responsibility efforts have moved into uncharted management territory. We see companies reengineering supply chains to make them "greener," supporting social causes through volunteer programs for employees, or lobbying for human rights in far-flung corners of the globe.
As this tide swells, many executives are left with the nagging sense that such investments rest on a shaky understanding of how corporate responsibility creates value, both for their companies and for society. Some investments, of course, produce immediate and quantifiable gains, such as those from recycling or from manufacturing processes that save energy. But often, social investments are expected to yield longer-term benefits as engaged consumers step up their purchases, a broader investor base develops, or new talent flocks to a company's recruiters.
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