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More Canadian companies need corporate social responsibility plans: PwC

Report suggests too many of Canada’s private companies don’t have don’t follow solid corporate social responsibility policies


April 29, 2011
by Canadian Manufacturing Daily Staff

TORONTO—About half of Canada’s private companies don’t have a corporate social responsibility plan (CSR) in place, according to a new PwC report.

The survey found only 21 per cent of respondents currently have a CSR plan aligned to business goals and 29 per cent won’t for another three to five years.

This is largely because the majority of Canadian private companies (53 per cent) view it as a “nice-to-have” rather than a priority, the survey suggests.  But in today’s era of greater regulation for environmental and social responsibility practices, companies who lag on CSR could be in trouble.

These companies are missing out on opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract a growing number of social and eco-conscious employees and consumers.

“Many of these issues that are currently being dealt with on a voluntary basis could very well be regulated in the future,” says Mel Wilson, associate partner, sustainable solutions group, PwC. “Companies would be wise to start operating as if there were regulations already in place, so they’ll be in a better position when those regulations actually come along.”

While CSR can be a competitive advantage for businesses, the study shows that only 30 per cent of respondents saw it as such. And despite the fact that a commitment to CSR can be a draw in attracting top talent, none of the respondents who had CSR plans in place were communicating their plans in their recruitment initiatives.

“Embedding CSR into a business is a good way to stay ahead of competitors and attract talented recruits, but many businesses may not fully understand these benefits or know how to start,” says Wilson.

Private companies should be even more inclined to adopt CSR plans because many of them operate in the middle of the supply chain, selling services and goods to large multi-nationals. More multinationals are eliminating vendors in their supply chain that are not aligned with their risk tolerance or approach to CSR.

“This means private companies have to meet the CSR needs of the end-buyers in order to compete,” says Wilson. “In this new business environment where social and environmental issues are front and centre, private companies should get ahead of the curve or risk being left behind from a competitive standpoint.”

Wilson recommends the following steps to creating a sustainable business:

• Create a longer-term vision. Senior management should articulate what CSR means to their organization.

Management, the board of directors and employees, and stakeholders shou7ld be involved in discussions.

• Identify the impacts of your company’s operations are on the environment and on people. “The financial equivalent would be looking at the organization to see if you can be more efficient,” says Wilson.

• Measure CSR performance as much as possible. The majority of private companies (80 per cent) with CSR plans track their progress.

• Communicate that performance to your key stakeholders. This includes shareholders, customers, employees, potential recruits and the communities where you operate.

The PwC Pulse Survey on CSR polled 82 private Canadian companies. For the full report, click here.