Co-operation holds the key to ethical and sustainable business

A study commissioned by the Charities Trust has found that large corporations and businesses are set to increasingly set aside differences in order to tackle global issues, singling out climate change as one of the primary challenges that firms will need to tackle together.

The research comprised a review of previous studies into corporate giving, an online survey of business and charity practitioners and interviews with six experts and corporate senior managers.

The Future for Corporate Giving Report predicted that large international business coalitions will come together, with the help of customers and charities, to engage in grand-scale problem-solving that will address environmental, social and sustainability issues.

However, the report also stated: “Our interviewees sounded a note of caution. Such campaigns are only effective if consumers sense a genuine meaningfulness. As these programmes grow in popularity, consumers will become more selective and sometimes highly cynical about firms they believe engage in reputation-building that lacks substance.”

The study found that corporations working together will look to fund and steer international campaigns pushing for social and environmental change. It stated that big businesses are set to be bigger stakeholders in ‘fixing the world’; setting aside competitive differences to benefit their organisations to appeal to discerning consumers and enhance their reputations.

The report comes after a study released by Nielsen earlier this week, which found that 55% of online consumers were willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact.

Competitive edge

Managing director of the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, Mark Shamley, noted the increased importance of being ethical and sustainable due to consumers and activists being ready to shame companies. “If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, then people will find out – increasingly through social media,” he said.

The report’s findings were supported by comments made yesterday (24 June) by M&S chief executive Marc Bolland. Speaking during an update of the M&S Plan A sustainability programme, Bolland said he would be happy to work alongside other corporate giants to tackle global issues.

“We don’t want a competitive edge when it comes to being a ‘sustainable business’,” he said. “With things like plastic bags we just want everyone to do the right thing. We’ll share all of our best practices tomorrow with anyone who wants them.

“If environmental legislation comes into force and puts us on par with other businesses in some respects, that’s absolutely fine. That’s not what we’re about – we’re not about trying to win against others by trying to do a better job. This is a joint journey that we all need to be on-board with, so we are happy to work and collaborate with other companies.”

Matt Field

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