My predictions for the next 12 months for CSR concern five disparate groups (the stars next to the titles represent my level of confidence in the predictions). Identifying CSR trends, let alone any trends, seems fraught with danger, however, here goes!
Two not entirely unrelated trends will come from Executives.
Firstly, they will gain increased understanding of the bottom line effects from CSR. The business case for CSR will become increasing complex and reliable, distinguishing between value levers and bottom line numbers (thanks Marks & Spencer ), particularly in relation to individual companies. This trend will increase dialogue between investors and Execs on CSR and inadvertently partially convince CFOs of the importance of CSR.
At the same time, executives who really ‘get’ CSR will put significant resources into developing leadership models and programmes for the next generation of CEOs. Activity will focus specifically on CSR, new business models and decoupling growth from business success. This will be a small, but noticeable trend toward embedding CSR into Executive personalities and decision-making processes.
The effects of Exec trends will take longer than the next 12 months to really be noticed.
Consuming Companies *****
Avis recently announced that it plans to acquire Zipcar, the by-the-hour car renting company. More companies will follow the trend to scaling collaborative consumption models which increase profit and decrease reliance on resources. That’s not to say that such models will suddenly dominate the landscape, just that we will have more visibility of (and hope for) new ways of thinking about business.
The change in business models will have the effect of reducing consumption, but there is also a danger that we ‘follow the frog‘, and as a result complacently believe that sustainability is easy; that new labels (and technologies) will save us from our own unsustainable consumption.
People who don’t care about CSR *****
Increasingly people will see the value of using their professional skills to benefit others, and vote with their feet by getting involved with their local communities on relevant issues. Actually the latter part of that sentence is quite speculative and depends on a whole load of factors (including the success of organisations like Give What You’re Good At), but I’m more confident that the first part is true for companies.
So far as there are any effects, they will be not in relation to CSR but seen in impact on local communities.
CSR ‘Professionals’ *****
People with the term ‘CSR’ (or CR, Sustainability, Citizenship, etc…) in their title will celebrate the development of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility. Building on the skillset identified in BITC’s CR Practitioner Competency Map, the Institute will forge new paths for professional development and garner new levels of respect for CSR Professionals (and also an increase in the number of people who declare an allegiance to CSR). Of course it will also mark the commencement of new debate about what CSR really is, and whether there should be CSR professionals at all (mirroring the development of HR as a profession).
This will both unite and divide the profession, and also exacerbate the differences between burgeoning C-suite CSR professionals (the CSO will continue to grow in prevalence) and long-standing CSR practitioners. Someone in the USA will decide that they should also have such an institute and we will probably all benefit from the inter-institutional competition and be confuzzled by the differences.
Making predictions is quite silly, especially for just 12 months. If you get things wrong, everyone reminds you; get them right and no-one remembers. In any case, CSR has developed beyond making short term predictions as a way to shore up its place in business life.
Next time I write one of these, perhaps it will be trends for the next 5 years…