The 10 Challenges to CSR in 2011

Business Leaders Reveal Their Top Priorities in Sustainability
Jan 28, 2011 7:00 AM ET

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) Sustainability challenges cut across all industries (LONDON, ON) - January 26, 2011 – A recent roundtable of 15 top ‘green’ Canadian companies reveals the challenges holding companies back from being more sustainable are universal, no matter what industry they’re in. The top 10 challenges appear in a report published today by the independent research group Network for Business Sustainability. 

The Network convenes the roundtable annually to outline business barriers to adopting environmental practices and publicly promoting sustainability. The Network’s academic researchers then study the issues, producing answers that ideally help managers everywhere overcome similar barriers.   “This year, there was universal concern about the risks and rewards of taking a stand as a ‘green pioneer’,” said Tima Bansal, professor of management at the Richard Ivey School of Business and Executive Director of NBS. “In trying to operate more responsibly, companies in forestry and energy face some of the same challenges as companies in telecommunications and consumer packaged goods.”   Bansal added that leading your industry in sustainability typically means you attract new customers and foster loyalty with employees and the community. But leadership also presents risks, such as being overtaken by a competitor or over-investing in technologies that fail to yield the expected rewards.   Representing the private, public and non-profit sectors, the roundtable included companies well-known for their environmentally-sound practices and public support of sustainability such as TD Bank Group, Suncor, Research In Motion (RIM), and TELUS.   Andrew Wilczynski, TELUS’ manager of corporate social responsibility and one of the roundtable participants, said being viewed by customers as leading the way in sustainability creates tremendous benefits but also raises their expectations.   “When you’re a leader, you’re subject to more scrutiny than your peers,” said Wilczynski. “For example, we’re committed to limiting our paper consumption – and have reduced it by nearly 60 per cent over the last 10 years. But because we’re well-known for taking a strong stand on sustainability, when people see us using promotional flyers or other print materials they question our commitment, while they may not even notice larger and more frequent mail from our competitors. So, by setting higher standards, we have opened ourselves up to additional scrutiny. That’s the kind of risk you take in pursuing sustainability.   Additionally and somewhat ironically we believe it is important to strive to ensure that your commitment to sustainability is itself sustainable over time and across the peaks and valleys of the business and economic cycle.”   In addition to understanding the risks and rewards of being a green pioneer, the business leaders identified the following nine challenges to responsible business:
  • Establishing best practices for sustainable sourcing.

  • Understanding how individuals make decisions about environmental and social issues.

  • Attracting and incenting employees who will drive sustainability programs.

  • Identifying what metrics (such as energy consumption, CO2 output, water usage, etc.) most accurately reflect a firm’s sustainability activities.

  • Understanding which government policies most effectively address sustainability issues (e.g. if a policy on waste management conflicts with a policy on energy consumption, which one produces the greatest net gain to society?).

  • Incorporating sustainability into the financial business case – placing a dollar value on the benefits of responsible business, such as brand name and customer loyalty.

  • Determining the materiality of sustainability – knowing which projects matter most to internal and external stakeholders and which have the greatest impact on the company.

  • Identifying the organizational attributes that affect a company’s credibility when making claims of environmental or social responsibility.

  • Understanding the aboriginal perspective on sustainable business and how best to engage aboriginal groups.


Read the full report: Canadian Business Sustainability Priorities 2011


  About the Network for Business Sustainability The Network for Business Sustainability is a not-for-profit organization that connects thousands of researchers and business leaders worldwide – with the goal of creating new, sustainable business models for the 21st century. The Network receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Richard Ivey School of Business at The University of Western Ontario, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and industry partners.   NBS Leadership Council BC Hydro Canadian Pacific Environment Canada Holcim International Institute for Sustainable Development Industry Canada Pembina Institute                                                                Research In Motion Ltd. SAP Suncor Energy Inc TD Bank Group Teck Resources Ltd. TELUS Corp. Tembec Unilever   For further information: Tima Bansal, PhD is available for interviews by contacting: Anthea Rowe, Communications Manager, Network for Business Sustainability, 519-661-2111 x88107, Andrew Wilczynski is available for interviews by contacting: Shawn Hall, Media Relations, TELUS, 604-697-8176.