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Future Trends in CSR: Wayne Visser

5th July 2012

Keynote speaker and CSR expert Wayne Visser has written an article about the next 10 years in CSR.

Wayne feels that a new approach to CSR, called Systemic CSR, or CSR 2.0, is needed. He conveys the need for a “purpose-driven, principle-based approach, in which business seeks to identify and tackle the root causes of our present unsustainability and irresponsibility, typically through innovating business models, revolutionizing their processes, products and services and lobbying for progressive national and international policies.”

Wayne has identified 10 trends:

Trend 1 – In the future, he believes that most large, international companies will have moved through the first four types or stages of CSR (defensive, charitable, promotional and strategic) and practicing, to varying degrees, transformative CSR, or CSR 2.0.

Trend 2Wayne believes that in time “reliance on CSR codes, standards and guidelines like the UN Global Compact, ISO 14001, SA 8000, etc., will be seen as a necessary but insufficient way to practice CSR.” His vision that companies will be judged on how innovative they are in using their products and processes to tackle social and environmental problems.

Trend 3 – In the future, self-selecting ‘ethical consumers’ will become less relevant as a force for change. Companies – strongly encouraged by government policies and incentives – will scale up their choice-editing, i.e. ceasing to offer ‘less ethical’ product ranges, thus allowing guilt-free shopping.

Trend 4Wayne foresees that eventually cross-sector partnerships will be at the heart of all CSR approaches. “These will increasingly be defined by business bringing its core competencies and skills (rather than just its financial resources) to the party, as Wal-Mart did with its logistics capability in helping to distribute aid during Hurricane Katrina.”

Trend 5Wayne’s expectations for the future are that companies practicing CSR 2.0 will “be expected to comply with global best practice principles, such as those in the UN Global Compact or the Ruggie Human Rights Framework, but simultaneously demonstrate sensitivity to local issues and priorities.”

Trend 6 – In the future, progressive companies will be required to demonstrate full life cycle management of their products, from cradle-to-cradle. We will see most large companies committing to the goal of zero-waste, carbon-neutral and water-neutral production, with mandated take-back schemes for most products.”

Trend 7 – He hopes that in the future, “some form of Generally Accepted Sustainability Practices (GASP) will be agreed, including consensus principles, methods, approaches and rules for measuring and disclosing CSR.”

Trend 8 – Wayne believes that many of today’s CSR practices will be mandatory requirements in the future. However, CSR will remain a voluntary practice.

Trend 9 – In the future, corporate transparency will take form of publicly available sets of mandatory disclosed social, environmental and governance data – available down to a product life cycle impact level – as well as Web 2.0 collaborative CSR feedback platforms, WikiLeaks type whistleblowing sites and product rating applications (like the GoodGuide iPhone app).

Trend 10 – Finally, Wayne expects that eventually CSR will have diversify “back into its specialist disciplines and functions, leaving little or no CSR departments behind, yet having more specialists in particular areas (climate, biodiversity, human rights, community involvement, etc.), and more employees with knowledge of how to integrate CSR issues into their functional areas (HR, marketing, finance, etc.)”

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