UK businesses could increase their annual productivity by £100 billion by becoming more socially responsible, according to a new report by three high-profile organisations.
The report, published by Accenture, Business in the Community and Marks & Spencer and titled Fortune Favours the Brave, describes innovation opportunities that it argues could stimulate growth whilst also considering the need for sustainability.
Olly Benzecry, managing director of Accenture’s UK and Ireland business, said, “At a time of economic challenges and changing consumer expectations, there is an opportunity to make sustainable business practices a driver of growth and competitiveness.
“That requires companies to innovate and to embrace the disruption that new sustainable business models can create.”
The proposals include applying energy efficiency initiatives, promoting reuse of products and improving transparency and customer engagement. These changes, the report suggests, can generate billions of savings while balancing the needs of the customer and the environment.
Marks & Spencer, for example, reduced its clothing delivery vehicle fleet by 25% and improved fuel efficiency by 30%. The report claims that management of resources and the use of emerging clean technologies could save companies £61 billion every year.
Studies have in the past shown a link between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate financial performances. In a 2003 paper, Orlitzky, Schmidt and Rynes, management academics from the US and Australia, wrote, “Findings suggest that corporate virtue in the form of social responsibility and, to a lesser extent, environmental responsibility is likely to pay off.”
However, CSR has been criticised by some. Writing in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility 2013, Michael Solomon, director of Responsible 100, suggested that CSR “isn’t working”.
“CSR has been en vogue and thousands of the world’s largest businesses have been busily ‘doing CSR’, the enormous challenges and threats to our planet and future remain unsolved”, he said.
“I challenge all those businesses that are ‘doing CSR’ to prove that what they say is a genuine reflection of what they do.”
Business in the Community has launched a Sustainable Business Toolkit to accompany the report, to provide guidance on how companies can “create and test new innovative ideas that deliver commercial, environmental and social benefit.”