Section image

Corporate responsibility:
an essential ingredient in

Many companies have made an increasingly important virtue and value of positioning their brand, goods or services as corporately responsible. If you are in the business of building brands, products, services or corporate brands in the long term, this is surely a given. If you want to build long-term profitability, you cannot dismiss the environment, society, government, NGOs or the press. Indeed, you would only ignore these constituencies if you were in business for a quick buck or short-term profit. We already know from our market research agencies that consumers and people inside companies value socially-responsible companies more highly.

HSBC in banking, and Walmart and M&S in retail are good examples of corporate responsibility. However, three relatively recent events have heightened the importance and significance of CR, or Global Corporate Citizenship, and made them very fashionable. First, the deal between Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, involving an exchange of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway stocks, to enable the Gates Foundation to do even greater charitable work. Second, the decision by Sir Richard Branson, at the second Clinton Global Initiative in New York, to donate up to $3 billion in profits from his Virgin companies to good causes. And finally, the decision by James Murdoch at BSkyB and his father Rupert Murdoch at NewsCorp to espouse carbon neutrality. All of these events have made it fashionable for chairmen and CEOs to embrace corporate responsibility – and embarrassing for them if they do not.

People will not consume luxury in the way they did until recently, particularly in Western markets, at least for some considerable time in the future. Responsible consumption will become more important, rather than conspicuous consumption. Consuming less in a more socially responsible way will be crucial – in relation to society, the environment and economy. Thus social responsibility will be more significant to the consumer, our clients, governments, NGOs and all constituencies.