Duncan Jones, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., shares insights from the firm’s recent research into efforts by global brands to achieve corporate social responsibility goals.
Forrester surveyed some 400 procurement professionals at various seniority levels with companies from around the world. One key finding was that corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives are ranging well beyond concerns around climate change, to include fair employment practices, support for local suppliers, and fair trade.
The research also found companies discovering that adherence to CSR goals not only was the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but also yielded real business benefits. Companies were able to craft more effective supplier relationships and increase resilience in their supply chains. “There was a spinoff benefit in doing things from a CSR point of view,” Jones says. “It wasn’t a choice between the two.”
That said, it remains a challenge for companies to ensure that their suppliers are engaging in CSR practices. The relevant information isn’t always immediately available, especially in the case of sub-suppliers from multiple tiers of the supply chain. To a certain extent, Jones says, companies are relying on self-reporting by suppliers, although third-party auditors also play a role. Either way, Jones says, it’s important to impress upon suppliers the sincerity of a customer’s CSR pledge. “We have to make suppliers understand that we really believe in this,” he says. “That it’s not just a box-ticking exercise.”
Measuring progress in a quantitative way can also be extremely difficult. Most companies today are at a low level of CSR maturity, Jones says. “They’re not sure what they need to be doing, where to get the data from. They have a ways to go before they can say, ‘This is what great looks like.’ It’s evolving.”
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