Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and GlobeScan release their 7th annual State of Sustainable Business Report

bsr-logo-transparentOne of the BSR report’s chief strengths is the breadth of its data set. The group sent its survey to all 250 of its members and received responses from almost 200 (or 77 % of its membership), yielding input from 440 sustainability professionals at what BSR calls “today’s largest and most influential multinational companies.” BSR membership rolls include companies from Anheuser-Busch, Barrick Gold, Chevron, Merck and Monsanto, to Facebook, Google, H&M, Starbucks and Walmart.

Here are a few of the larger trends BSR identified:

  • Companies are further integratingsustainability into their businesses (almost 70 percent reported that sustainability is at least “fairly well-integrated”).
  • Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role to almost half (42 %) of companies.
  • Human rights remains the top CSR priority across companies (68 % called it a top priority). The next highest-ranking priorities were workers’ rights (63%) and climate change(60 %). Just a quarter of respondents indicated that poverty reduction was a top priority.
  • Most businesses outside of North America believe the upcoming international climate agreement, COP21, will impact their operations; however, in North America, 55 % said it would have, at most, “not very much” of an impact.

The BSR report also highlights areas where improvement is needed. On the topic of human rights, for example, — the most common action reported by companies was simply adopting a human rights policy (70 %). As for meaningful actions, only 36 % of respondents have conducted a human rights impact assessment; only 46 % train their employees on human rights standards; and a full 10 % have taken no actions.

Also, a 21 % reported that sustainability was not a top-10 CEO priority; and almost half of companies have fewer than 10 people in the sustainability function.

The untapped power of the consumer

Companies identified consumers and customers as the stakeholder group with the largest impact on sustainability (56 % of companies). Yet, despite this potential for impact, only 21 % of companies reported that consumer demand was actually a driver of sustainability, and less than half believe that their customers care about their sustainability reporting. This suggests that, while consumers may have the greatest potential to impact CSR, businesses do not feel correspondingly pressured by consumers to do more. In other words, the world’s most influential corporations have admitted that they would do more on sustainability if only their customers would demand it.

Read the full report here.