During the holidays, I reached out to some brilliant minds in the sustainability field to find out what is on tap for 2014 in the world of corporate responsibility. What are the big bets? What is on the horizon? What trends can we expect?
Below are some of the most compelling responses received:
Big Data and corresponding analytics will change the game fundamentally. HP is showing that right now with our Conservation International Project…we will do the same with our eHealth Centers and our HP LIFE training program. The key point is that we can now analyze in seconds what used to take months or what was never possible before; this will make us all more accountable in the end.
Inequality will become an issue facing businesses. Right now it’s mostly a political issue, with debates unfolding about the minimum wage on both coasts, where living costs are high and wages have not kept up. We’ve seen a scattering of fast food “strikes” and protests, as well as the attention paid to wages at Wal-Mart. Looking ahead, pressures could build on other brands and retailers to pay wages here in the US that enable people to live without turning to the government for help with food stamps and healthcare. As Wharton Professor Peter Capelli wrote recently:
“One of the things that I find surprising is how many companies that pay poverty-level wages or thereabouts to their employees spend a good deal of effort to be good corporate citizens in other areas. They try to make their operations ‘green,’ lessening their impact on the environment and some even sponsor anti-poverty programs in Africa. They just don’t seem very interested in the poverty among their own workforces.”
Reporting Becomes Ubiquitous
Elaine Cohen, CSR & HR Consultant, @elainecohen
They say the best way to predict the future is to create it. Therefore I predict that, in 2014, every company employing more than 1,000 people anywhere in the world will publish a Sustainability Report in which material sustainability issues are clearly defined, and specific actions, goals, and targets are publicly disclosed. These reports will be used by a range of stakeholders and will create differentiation for consumers, customers, employees, investors, and local communities. The companies that report with authenticity and integrity will win business and those that do not, will start to see the beginning of the end.
The Net Positive Paradigm
KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, CEO, Sustainable Life Media, @Koann/>
2014 is the year we make the turn at scale from aiming to be less bad, to aiming to be more good—or “Net Positive.” Collaborative, peer to peer consumption, circular economy models, inclusive design, localization extended beyond food, information supported behavior change and more will collide as we begin to more actively re-imagine and redesign our commerce and consumption models to take us further away from “Take, make, waste” toward those that are regenerative.
On the sustainability side, more companies will invest in renewables as the cost keeps getting more affordable and the technologies are easier to implement—and also, to further hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices. On the social side, watch for more companies to develop a more rigorous human rights policy–and companies will show more interest in rolling out products that are socially conscious.
Although there’s been talk of increased involvement from corporate boards, most of this engagement occurs only when a controversy has occurred. I believe that in 2014, board activity around corporate responsibility will become more proactive and not just in response to crises. Additionally, securing gender and racial diversity at the board level will come into focus as a key goal.