Triple Bottom Line on Wall Street?
Triple Bottom Line Thinking Grows Exponentially
By Jon Dougal
When John Elfington (founder of SustainAbility.com) first postulated the triple bottom line corporation, he probably had no idea how popular it might become and how right timing the idea was.
Nearly a decade later the concept of a socially, environmentally, economically responsible corporation has become mainstream accepted, and we are beginning to see evidence worldwide.
The Guardian of the UK reports that three UK grocers (Asada, Sainsbury's, and Tesco) with green agendas, are all searching for new directors of Corporate Social Responsibility. The CSR director has changed from being regarded as something of a box-ticking backwater of a job, according to the article, to a high profile position, high sought after position.
Sainsbury's CSR specialist, Helen Lo, is still employed by the grocer but has moved to work on a special project during her notice period. Asda's environmental specialist, Ian Bowles, has also quit, after more than five years. Tesco is searching for a new director of CSR to work with David North, the grocer's director of government affairs.
Chief Sustainability Officers are becoming more popular with companies that want to profit from going green and want to guard the value of their brand.
Meanwhile, a U.S. public opinion survey finds that close to 75% of U.S. workers think companies have responsibilities to the community. A new organization formed in Northern California in 2006 addresses just that issue. The New Voice of Business,( www.newvoiceof business.org) is breaking the mindset of business as usual in order to create a better future. This group of business people believe in the enormous power and creativity of business and business people to step up to a new and positive leadership role in addressing the enormous challenges and opportunities facing our nation and world today.
The old voice of business tends to represent industrial era thinking that is becoming irrelevant. It's a voice that speaks to narrow short term financial interests with little regard for the costs to society and our world. This model is no longer sustainable and has led to the degradation of our communities, our economy and our environment.
Business has been silent on the big issues of our time. Energy, global warming, health care, education, the role of business and fiscal irresponsibility are just some of the challenges we face. These are such core issues for America that expedient political or ideological positions work counter to effective solutions. The time for silence is over and we need a new voice of business that speaks the truth as we know it on the great issues.
Interestingly though, an enormous 70% of job seekers consider a prospective employer's corporate social responsibility program very important when it comes to evaluating job offers. This flies in the face of other statistics that show that employees of triple bottom line companies brag to their friends about working for a socially or environmentally responsible organization.
There are no clear studies that show how many employees of these triple bottom line companies understand the concept of economic responsibility. That principle being the creation of wealth. Wealth in the form of a living wage, equal pay for equal work, manufacturing from local economy's, wages that create a market for purchase of goods, and services. One that allows for an education, and clothing of children as well as an accumulation of an estate, the owning property.
In fact, according to a survey by recruitment company Hudson, only 7% of today's work force claims that they have ever rejected an offer based on the lack of a company's Corporate Social Responsibility.
However, when employees don't base job decisions on CSR programs, 46% believe it is very important for an organization to have such an initiative, and it seems workers appreciate opportunities to invest in the community when they are given the chance. Of the 46% of workers who work for an organization with a CSR program, nearly two-thirds of the associates participate. 20% of workers state their employer allows them paid time off to volunteer, which is probably not even necessary when people are committed in what they believe in, and believe they and their families gain in the process. Which is why 70% of that 20% take advantage of it.
As many might suspect, formal CSR programs are more prevalent at large companies, which are easier to track by survey. 58% of respondents who work for a company with 500+ employees state their firm has a CSR program, compared to 45% of all workers. An additional 82% of workers at large companies indicate that their company helps to sponsor volunteer programs, while 70% of all workers report that their company helps in those CSR activities.
Recent research from Cone (www.environmentalleader.com) found that more than 66% of Americans say they consider a company's business practices when deciding what to buy, while American workers in increasing numbers say they want their employers to support a social cause or issue.
Meanwhile, if you check out the socially responsible investment horizon, you'll find a host of companies are signing on like never before. The aspect of serious climate change has brought into the fold many larger corporations one would never have thought even a year ago.
You already know about Interface, and Shaw Carpet, and General Electric, but also take note of such forward thinking organizations as: Suntech Power Holdings, Tenneco, Trinity Industries, United Technologies, Zoltek, McDermott International's, Babcock & Wilcox, MEMC Electronic Materials, Ormat Technologies, Philips Electronics, Internatiol Rectifier, FuelCell Energy, Itron, Johnson Controls, Orbcomm, Rohn & Haas, Westinghouse Nuclear, and Sunpower just to name a few. Even Target Department stores launched a CSR operation in local communities this last summer. Good marketing!