7 CSR Trends that will dominate 2019
Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash
2019 will be a promising year of corporate citizenry and impact. Reporting, Community engagement, employee training, betterment campaigns and market feedback are all aligning to support a higher level of CSR activity than ever before. Here are some thoughts on what to stay tuned for in the following year. So, keep your eyes open.
1. Artificial Intelligence
There is a moving trend for no more 80-page report. AI will assist sustainability and corporate reporting efforts by increasing efficiencies – a trend we’ve seen for the past couple of years. There will be AI to distill data into infographics, and media campaigns or investor visuals will move it to be processed forward. All that data is not possible to process without AI which will play a role in processing flows and calculating progress, however decisions will still be made on simple understandings.
2. Sustainability profession - Back to school.
Sustainability practitioners will be demanded by departments throughout an organization to strengthen organizational culture around sustainability. The Financial department, Procurement, Communications, R&D, investor relations, etc. will want a sustainability expert among their ranks, working side-by-side, answering questions, leading programs and informing policy throughout the corporate structure. Many corporate leaders and CSR professionals will find themselves in training classes and peer-to-peer dialogues in order to keep abreast of changes and best practices in governance and accountability. Expect to see more formal classes in CSR and sustainability like executive educations courses at Harvard Business School, Wharton School of Business as well as increased offerings for emerging professionals like the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility at Johns Hopkins University or Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadreship.
3. Supply chain pressures and audits
With CSR tools like the GRI, LEED, SASB and CDP asking not just company activity but the activities of the suppliers and subcontractors. The job of building a supply chain that is ethical is more challenging than it sounds. From packaging to transportation, the supply chain is made up of a myriad of links, and globalisation has led to those links feeling even more remote to a company’s procurement team. Consumers are digging deeper to make sure the products they buy are not causing any unnecessary harm and are increasingly boycotting companies that aren’t employing due diligence in this area. Apple, Zara, Volkswagen, no company is immune to the media scandal and reputational damage. Companies will increase investment in auditing their supply chains, educating their staff in the need for only contacting suppliers that can confidently and with evidence, prove that they in turn are implementing CSR practices. Ikea is just one example of a company who is fully committed to this outcome, making a statement that they intend to use only recycled or FSC certified wood by 2020.
4. Ethical product lines and packaging
There is increasing number of brands investing in creating ethically sourced, sustainable product lines, such as Topshop’s ‘Reclaim to Wear’ collection, L’oreal’s vegan hair-care line and Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea line. We can assume this is to ensure they can maintain the loyalty of the ever-conscious Millennial consumer, and can compete with new brands, such as Matt & Nat who are trading on the specific USP of creating ‘good’ products.
However, it’s working:
- Unilever reported that their sustainable brands (one of which is Pukka organic teas) grew 40% faster than the rest of the business in 2016.
- Procter & Gamblehave committed to introducing 25% recycled plastic across 500 million bottles sold yearly across its haircare brands.
- Coca-Cola have also responded to plastic pressure and raised their 2020 recycling target to 50%.
In the world of supply and demand, it can’t be a bad thing that the demand is there and companies are striving to meet it. It looks like the sustainable and ethical approach is only going to keep on growing as the demanding and morally-minded Millennials and their younger counterparts continue to question and pressure the system that keeps it.
5. Sustainable Development Goals will thrive:
The SDGs were released in 2015 by the UN General Assembly and is still early on the market engagement curve. These goals are unique since they connect individuals to enterprise and they are highly accessible with their easy to understand icons and descriptions. 2019 will be the year of the SDG as it will become the universal standard for CSR activity and the common denominator for the voluntary evaluations active today with the strategy „more prevention, less relief“. While many companies will continue to provide relief to victims of natural disasters through cash grants and product donations, we can expect to see more companies move away from a reactive approach to more of a proactive approach of helping communities be more resilient in the future bz supporting SDGs. While most natural disasters cannot be prevented from occurring, the impact on people can be mitigated or even largely eliminated through better planning, and more restrictions on building and development.
Transportation is moving toward greater efficiency using established methods of better scheduling, on-demand delivery, and computer-assisted routing. These are well established trends. What is newis the growing awareness that climate change will change transportation dynamics. The industry is experimenting with significantly low-fuel and even no-fuel options to lower carbon footprint.
7. Millennials (or Gen Y), iGen (or Gen Z-ers) are here
While a huge portion of the media’s attention is on Millennial past few years, Generation Z-ers (those born after the mid-1990s) are now entering the workforce and consumer marketplace in droves (40% of all consumers globally by 2020). Expect Generation Z-ers, who are the real early adopters and digital natives, to demand better and easier-to-use technology, more flexibility in the workplace, more freedom of choice, and greater degrees of acceptance and transparency in the workplace and marketplace. They are particularly interested in seeing companies address issues of global poverty and hunger, the environment and climate change, and human rights. A recent study from PR agency Weber Shandwick found that: 44% of Millennial would feel more loyalty towards their CEO if he or she took a stand on a contentious issue versus 19% who said they would not. 47% of Millennial think CEOs should speak up and take active stances on social issues. 51% of Millennial surveyed said they are more likely to buy products from companies that have activist CEOs. Try to imagine what will the numbers look like for Z-ers. There is increasing number of successful companies who identify strategy „More Personality in the C-Suite“ with CEOs who incorporate their personal brand with the enterprise like John Legere for being the pink shirt + business blazer executive.
2019 will prove to be a tumultuous year creating many waves. Pay attention to how companies are gearing up to ride these waves and engage with thoughtful CSR campaigns.
As the SDGs become more popular, keep an eye out for industry level partnerships for programming and impact support. SDG’s will naturally classify companies, their impact and action path forward. Industries and trade organizations will be thinking about how to counter global issues.