Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

9.4.08

Wal-Mart looks for the green in green

Thanks to Penelope :-)

Wal-Mart looks for the green in green
By Michael Estrin
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Typically, the only "green" retail giant Wal-Mart is associated with is money. But the company is hoping to turn over a new leaf, according to a story in BrandWeek.

Beginning this week, Wal-Mart is launching what it calls "the most comprehensive environmental sustainability campaign" in company history.

The campaign, which features print, TV, radio web and in-store elements, will attempt to recast Wal-Mart as an environmentally friendly brand.

In a joint effort with Coco-Cola, Wal-Mart will sell T-shirts made from RPET, a material made from recycled plastic bottles, while another part of the campaign will feature Wal-Mart-branded organic coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance as a fair trade product.

While Wal-Mart may be looking for a way to show its support for environmental activism, such a strategy can be a double-edged sword, according to a recent report from Nielsen Online. Jessica Hogue, who authored the report for Nielsen, said that brands that "greenwash" risk being perceived by consumers as disingenuous.

For Wal-Mart, the risk could be especially high given the company's troubled history of poor public relations and clumsy digital marketing efforts. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart jumped back into the blogosphere after its "Wal-Marting Across America" blog was revealed to be a marketing ploy in disguise. Wal-Mart now claims that it's encouraging merchants to speak openly and honestly about the retailer's products on company-supported blogs.

But Wal-Mart's past experience may not be the only reason to doubt the veracity of its new campaign. According to the BrandWeek story, the campaign was created after a decision from the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus to reject the company's claim that its customers save an average of $2,500 per family per year by shopping at Wal-Mart.

HBR Green: Should Managers Have a Green Hippocratic Oath?

From HBR Green, a Harvard publication

Should Managers Have a Green Hippocratic Oath?

by Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria
Posted on April 1, 2008 3:16 PM

The once unassailable notion that corporations exist solely to maximize their shareholders' returns is crumbling. Without a doubt, the dramatic scale and scope of the challenges presented by climate change will require the next generation of business leaders to adopt a more socially oriented professional identity. Recently, Bill Gates has called for a new "creative capitalism."Where once it was enough to simply deliver results to the bottom line, Gates noted, the next generation of managers will be held responsible for decisions that have effects far beyond their corporations and the markets they serve.

To prepare new managers for the challenges that await them, dramatic changes in their education and training will be necessary. Business school courses will need to incorporate facts and decision-making frameworks that go beyond the conventional market logic that now dominates the MBA curriculum. Students will need to learn how to incorporate environmental and social goals in decision making. They will also need to break away from misleading and simplistic ideas that caricature managers as the hired hands of shareholders.

Management, in other words, will have to become more like the learned professions of medicine and law. Professions such as these are, at least in theory, characterized by an orientation to serving society--and they have something the profession of management does not have--a normative code or oath that encourages leaders to consider the broader implications of their actions. Most professional codes, including the modern version of the ancient Hippocratic oath for doctors, clearly articulate the higher aims and social purposes of the profession and the norms of conduct that should govern members' behavior in pursuing these purposes.

A management oath should be created to encourage business leaders to be aware of the broader implications of their actions, including those related to the environment. Simply survey the history of management or business schools' curricula, and you will see that the notion that corporations have a responsibility to society is not a new idea, simply a forgotten one. Perhaps the frightening and complex issue of climate change will serve as a wake up call for managers and business educators, spurring them to create their own code of conduct.

Should managers be forced to adopt a code to consider the effects of their actions on the environment? What would such an oath look like?

HBR Green - Should Managers Have a Green Hippocratic Oath? View this on your Mobile device.
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Should Managers Have a Green Hippocratic Oath?
Widespread recognition of climate change and other major environmental problems has made it clear that the next generation of corporate leaders will be forced to grapple with a set of enormously complex and important issues. Given how business activities affect the environment, should new managers be asked to take an oath similar to the ones that doctors recite--requiring business leaders to first do no harm, including harm to the environment?

Harvard Business School professors Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria
say that they should, and encourage you to help them write such an oath.

Click here to join the discussion >>

Up Next on HBRGreen.org
Gregory C. Unruh
, director of the Lincoln Center for Ethics in Global Management at Thunderbird School of Global Management, will wrap up our six-topic, twelve-week exploration of some of the most difficult environmental issues facing businesses today on April 16.

Previously on HBRGreen.org

Green Stakeholders: Pesky Activists or Productive Allies?
Clashes between companies and NGOs are often more about drama than results. Green activists "ambush" executives to get their message out; companies respond to pressure by publishing sustainability reports with more PR than substance. But neither tactic really helps address complex environmental problems. Lip service and theatrics must give way to productive relationships, says Judith Samuelson of the Aspen Institute, but can companies, investors, and NGOs find a way to act as partners--with real skin in the game--to connect the power of markets to a green future?
More >>

Staying Green in a Tough Economic Climate
Most annual reports make a respectable nod to "sustainable" these days--it's easy for companies to devote serious resources to green growth when the economy is chugging along. Sir Stuart Rose, chief executive of the British retail giant Marks & Spencer, says his company is making great leaps forward with Plan A--its ambitious 100-point plan to be carbon neutral and send no waste to landfill by 2012. But what happens to those good intentions when business gets rocky and shareholders see red, not green? What are the true bottom-line trade-offs? Will today's noble initiatives fade to historic footnotes when companies struggle to survive?
More >>

Winners and Losers in a Carbon-Constrained World
You know the old poker saying, "If you don't know who the sucker is in a game, it's you." Well, sometimes business can be a lot like that. Concerns about climate change will undoubtedly spur massive market shifts--whether they come from changes in regulations, capital markets, consumer demand, or something else. And when changes come, they will create both winners and losers. Which will your company be? And what can you do to make sure that your company is a winner?
More >>

You Are Only As Green As Your Supply Chain
In this commentary, Brian Walker, CEO of furniture maker Herman Miller, shares three critical steps his company has taken on the long road to being green. Read his commentary and then join the discussion: What do you think it means to be green, and how do you work with your suppliers to make it happen?
More >>

Don't Bother with the "Green" Consumer
Thanks to the outstanding contributions by our readers and experts, we had a lively discussion about whether or not we should market to the "green" consumer.
More >>

Join the HBR Green Conversation

The interaction between business and the environment is so complex and multifaceted that there can never be just one approach to any problem. For that reason, HBR has arranged for a set of expert commentators to engage our readers in a lively online discussion on a set of six green topics over the course of three months, ending April 23.
Come and share your thoughts and solutions to the most pressing problems of our day.

Additional Resources

Harvard Business Review on Green Business Strategy
FORWARD TO A FRIEND >>



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Home > HBRGreen.org > Don't Bother with the "Green" Consumer

HBR Green
Don't Bother with the "Green" Consumer

by Steve Bishop
Posted on January 23, 2008 9:00 AM

It seems so logical on the face of it. A company wishing to go green should focus on the green consumer, right? Not so. Marketing to the green consumer has proved difficult, even downright dangerous, for companies large and small. Here's why.

    • Established companies fear alienating their base of mainstream consumers by appealing to the green consumer, and rightly so. The majority of consumers seek to satisfy their personal needs before considering those of the planet. Green for green's sake products often don't meet the basic needs that most people require from their products. Take hemp clothing, for example. If green for green's sake products could go mainstream, we'd all be wearing hemp sweaters and be happy
      about it.

    • Small, streamlined green brands that truly appeal to the environmentalist consumer can't reach the mainstream. Those companies get stuck in a green ghetto—virtuous, but limited in scope.
The result is that most companies are stuck somewhere in the middle—and that turns out to be a very dangerous place indeed. We've all watched a company take a traditional product and tout its green virtues. When the approach doesn't work all that well, they simply take out a bigger megaphone. Hence the green-washing epidemic we have today.

So while the traditional marketing answer to the question, Should we market to the green consumer? has been yes, the better answer is this: Instead of focusing on a green niche, focus on green behaviors that everyone can aspire to.

When we helped Shimano, an international manufacturer of bike parts, create a new bike platform, we didn't focus on cycling enthusiasts—the biggest segment in this market—or on the green niche. Instead we focused on a growth strategy with a "green outcome"—more people riding bikes and enjoying it. As a result, we turned our attention to the 161 million Americans who don't ride at all.

Our work with Shimano yielded two insights: 1) everyone fondly remembers biking as a kid; 2) highly technical sports bikes and lycra-clad salespeople in bike stores put off would-be everyday riders. So Shimano pitched a concept bike to manufacturers that was intuitive and inviting. Mechanical components were hidden, handlebars were stripped of complex controls, and pedals, were well, just pedals.

/flatmm/HBRGreen_image2_golive.jpgThey called it the "Coasting" bike. Nothing to learn, just jump on and go, like when you were a kid. That's what gets people riding.

So where's the environmental story here? Well, there isn't an explicit one. Shimano is addressing a human problem, not an environmental one. By seeking the truth about what really matters to people and creating a great experience for them, the company is appealing to a mass market increasingly aware of our impact on the planet. Coasting bikes tell the green story implicitly by inviting people to engage in new, positive behaviors—like reducing greenhouse gases by pedaling—instead of driving.

For a company that wants to go green, then, the green consumer niche is almost irrelevant. I'm reminded of HBS professor Ted Levitt's old marketing axiom that people who buy drills don't need drills; they need holes. Consumers—whether they are green or mainstream—don't simply want green products, they want solutions to their day-to-day problems that also make sense for our environment.

The bottom line: Marketing needs to define what sustainability means for their company and then decide how to express those values in their offerings. Companies should stop trying to appeal to green consumers by building green myths into the products they have and start creating something real—products that tell their environmental story for them.


You Are Only As Green As Your Supply Chain

HBR Green
You Are Only As Green
As Your Supply Chain

by Brian Walker
Posted on February 6, 2008 9:00 AM

Years ago Herman Miller decided to become an advocate for the environment, both because we believed it was the right thing to do and because we saw the potential for a clear business benefit. Ever since, we've been refining our processes to put our aspirations into practice.

Our Perfect Vision campaign, launched in 2003, includes green goals such as no landfill waste, no hazardous waste, no air or water emissions from manufacturing, and the use of 100% green energy, all by the year 2020. These are stringent targets our company cannot reach without engaging over 200 materials and components suppliers in the ongoing task of greening our global supply chain.

As we've examined every aspect of our worldwide supply chain, we've learned one key lesson: A business, and the products it sells, can only be environmentally sustainable through a holistic approach to design, raw materials, production methods, packaging, shipping, recycling, and even marketing--across the entire value chain. It's far too large and complex a undertaking for any organization to go it alone and be truly effective. You know the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, it takes an entire supply chain to green a company.

Here are three things we recommend to companies working with their suppliers on the long-term goal of going green.

1. Design your products with sustainability as a core principal. At Herman Miller, we have a problem-solving, design-driven culture, so we spend a lot of time thinking about how to create our products. HBRGreen_topic2_image2.jpgIn 2001, when we were creating our Mirra chair, we had been working with architect Bill McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, both leading-edge environmentalist thinkers, toward their vision of a "cradle-to-cradle" design that embraces sustainable materials in a closed-loop life cycle. As a result, we eliminated the use of a chemical called polyvinyl chloride in that chair. Now, PVC has advantages, including the fact that it is inexpensive and durable. However, PVC releases toxins during manufacturing and when it is burned. We decided not to use it and implemented that decision with the help of our suppliers. We embedded those cradle-to-cradle principals in our product development process for all new designs, beginning with Mirra.

2. Refine your goals and put them to paper. We aim to be fully sustainable by 2020, but we're holding ourselves accountable to interim goals along the way. For example, by 2010, 50% of our sales will come from products that conform to our own rigorous Design for the Environment standards, and we aim to reduce our environmental footprint by 80%. Achieving these goals requires paying attention not only to materials, including their chemical ingredients, but also to our sources of energy, to our manufacturing processes, and to our packaging. We don't want to reduce our impact in one area while ignoring it in another. Nor do we want to move our environmental impact upstream into our supply chain.

3. Embrace transparency and meaningful metrics. Our company, our customers, and our industry in general are moving inexorably toward more transparent reporting when it comes to the environment. And, like any other management issue, what gets measured gets managed. When it comes to our supply chain, several measures apply. We award points through our Supplier Quantification Process for formal environmental programs and active waste-reduction programs. We rate our suppliers according to how effectively they are working to help us reach our goals--from researching alternative materials to incorporating our measurable targets into their flow charts. And this is the crux of the issue: We're not only looking at our suppliers, but at our suppliers' suppliers.

We have 12 years and a long way to go before reaching our self-imposed deadline for our Perfect Vision mission. By looking--and forcing change--outside our company as well as inside, we believe we can achieve this goal. By following the three steps above, we believe other companies can reach their green goals as well.

How green is your supply chain? How much leverage do you have to improve it? What are your metrics for making it work? Does it take an entire supply chain to green a company or do you think you can go it alone?


Winners and Losers in a Carbon-Constrained World

by Andrew J. Hoffman and John Woody
Posted on February 19, 2008 12:46 PM

We live in a fossil fuel-based economy. Any alteration in the cost of those resources--both as sources of energy and as raw materials--will alter the competitive dynamics of nearly all sectors of the economy. Without a doubt, significant changes are on the horizon. Most observers believe that new regulations will soon create a market price for carbon. That fact alone will affect energy pricing and availability, creating a ripple effect throughout global value chains. And as in any market shift, there will be both risks and rewards, winners and losers. Certain industries, sectors, and companies will feel the impact more than others, but none will remain untouched.

Businesspeople need not have a personal view on the science and they don't have to resort to calls to "do the right thing." There are true strategic reasons to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Scanning the business horizon for opportunities to protect assets, improve the bottom line, and enhance top-line innovation is precisely what companies are expected to do, and shareholders demand no less. Since regulation is part of the business environment, any company that can foresee business opportunities in the formation of environmental legislation is practicing what is expected of their managers--it is called capitalism.

And that is how you should be thinking about climate change. The question to ask is whether your company has an economic opportunity to be green vis-à-vis your competitors; then you must ask how and when you can take advantage of that opportunity. In fact, such a line of reasoning, and the corporate response it creates, is the best possible way to find a solution to the climate change issue.

If you want to be a winner in a carbon-capped world, you and your management team must do a careful analysis of your company's position on climate change and develop a strategy to create opportunities. The ultimate goal of any good business strategy is to create a measure of control over your future business environment. Consider examining the following three steps as you prepare to develop a climate strategy.

      1. Know your carbon exposure. Create an emissions inventory and assess your carbon footprint; then you can ask how potential changes in policy and market price will affect the positioning of your products and services in the months ahead and in the long term.
      2. Take action. Once you know your footprint, reduce it. Then assess your business opportunities in doing so.
      3. Influence the policy-development process. Policies will set the rules of the game and change the competitive landscape, favoring certain actions, companies, and industries. But to gain a seat at the table, you must first take credible action and develop legitimate expertise to bring to bear.

    In the end, you don't need to study photos of receding glaciers or pore over the latest scientific reports to know that climate change is already happening. Just look at your marketplace, your competitors, and your boardroom. Some companies are adapting out of near-term operational necessity, others are acting to mitigate long-term strategic vulnerabilities, and the most forward-thinking are devising ways to profit from clean energy and efficient technology.

    So your only question in a carbon-constrained world is this: Will you be a winner or a loser--and how are you going to figure it out?


    taying Green in a Tough Economic Climate

    HBR Green
    Staying Green in a Tough Economic Climate

    by Sir Stuart Rose
    Posted on March 4, 2008 11:04 AM

    On January 9, 2008, the London stock market reacted strongly to a 12-week Marks & Spencer trading statement: Same-store sales, excluding new space, were down by 2.2% compared with the previous year. Our share price fell 18%, taking £1.6 billion off the value of our business.

    In light of increased business uncertainty and fragile consumer confidence, it might have been tempting to quietly shelve Plan A, our 100-point, five-year eco-plan. We could have heeded critics who said, "Times are tough, best ditch the fluffy stuff." But we didn't.

    We started Plan A last year, to make M&S carbon neutral and send no waste to landfill from our operations by 2012. The plan extends to sustainable raw materials sourcing, sets new standards in ethical trading, and helps customers and colleagues lead healthier lives.

    Despite the tough consumer climate and the reaction to our sales results, we are sticking to Plan A. There are compelling commercial--as well as moral--reasons to do so. Take the early results it's generating. Our "Wash at 30" campaign, which encourages consumers to wash their clothing at a lower temperature than used to be considered the norm, has saved an estimated 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide. We have reduced C02 emissions by an additional 55,000 tons by switching 23% of electricity to renewable resources. Toward our goal of zero waste to landfill, 75% of the construction waste from our store refurbishment program is now recycled.

    While we've estimated Plan A could cost around £200 million over five years, we haven't actually done a hard cost-benefit analysis. What we know is that individual decisions within Plan A need to make financial sense. For example, various initiatives--recycling clothes hangers, reducing packaging, and encouraging reusable carrier bags instead of plastic--are saving us millions of pounds, reducing landfill waste, and decreasing electricity consumption.

    Progress against Plan A is closely monitored because we regularly consult with a wide range of NGOs. The plan has also gained NGO recognition and was recently awarded the World Environment Center gold medal for sustainable business practices. We have a series of key public reporting dates with NGOs so that we can take their recommendations and ask for help. We have also deliberately tied Plan A reporting to our financial reporting schedule so that our stakeholders know when to expect to hear from us, and we expect to be held accountable to our commitments.

    Cutting back would also be a commercial mistake. A 2007 M&S customer survey said that 75% of British consumers are interested in green issues. Last November, in a survey which scored M&S with the best reputation in British business, the Confederation of British Industry concluded that customers will pay a premium for a great reputation, and that, as far as M&S is concerned, Plan A is already contributing positively to our wider standing.

    We've also taken some tough decisions not to do certain things. We decided not to put wind turbines on the roof of our first eco-store, a store designed entirely around green principles, because they wouldn't have been capable of generating sufficient power in that location and it would have been too expensive to build and maintain them. Symbolic perhaps, but not economic.

    So, responsible business is good business, provided we don't get too far ahead of our customers. I think half a step is about right: Any more and you can't sell to them; any less and you lose the lead.


    Marks & Spencer is holding firm in its commitment, but will others be able to? Or will green agendas be relegated to "nice to have" not "need to have" for companies struggling in tough economic times? What specific green ideals are most important for a company to not abandon when times are tough?

    Biofuels Webinar - Recording and Key Messages

    For those people that had asked
    ______________________________





    Dear All,

    Please find below a link to the recording of The Future of Biofuels webinar from 26 March. Also attached is a document with key messages and references.

    Thank you again to our speakers and to all who were able to join the event.

      Stream recording link:  https://theclimategroup.webex.com/theclimategroup/nbrshared.php?action=playback&recordID=15383537&recordKey=D5C25F25CBC7725DECDA878EB1049BA24912E322F7DDFFD6284A60D6DC60C74A
    <<Key Messages_final.docx>>

    Kind regards,

    Lauren


    Lauren Willoughby


    www.theclimategroup.org


    (See attached file: Key Messages_final.docx)

    George Pohle CSR Interview in Businessweek

    Thanks to Jeff Hittner for sending this one on



    From:

    Jeffrey Hittner/New York/IBM@IBMUS

    To:

    CSR Community

    Date:

    2008-04-08 15:23

    Subject:

    George Pohle CSR Interview in Businessweek



    Fellow CSR Community Members: Thought you might be interested to know that major U.S. business magazine Businessweek has published an interview with Business Strategy Consulting VP and Global Leader George Pohle on our corporate social responsibility study.

    You can read it here: http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/apr2008/ca2008043_500367.htm

    Or see it below:
    Inactive hide details for Armchair MBA: Fine-Tuning Corporate Social Responsibility (Businessweek, 4/6/08)Armchair MBA: Fine-Tuning Corporate Social Responsibility (Businessweek, 4/6/08)
    Armchair MBA: Fine-Tuning Corporate Social Responsibility (Businessweek, 4/6/08)

    A recent IBM study shows a hefty percentage of top officers don't quite connect with customer concerns. IBM's George Pohle discusses how to change that

    by William J. Holstein

    Top managements of companies around the world are confronting a growing chorus of demands to articulate their corporate social responsibility strategies, yet 76% of top executives polled by IBM (IBM) acknowledge they don't truly understand their customers' concerns.

    George Pohle, a vice-president and global leader for business strategy consulting at IBM, says his unit wants to help managements develop software tools for understanding these issues. He recently talked with Armchair MBA columnist William J. Holstein.

    Here are edited excerpts from their discussion.

    Your study shows that customers want companies to play a leading role in social responsibility. Is that a new development?

    I'm not sure it's a new development, but the amount of power and influence that these customers are now able to exercise has increased substantially and therefore it has become a top-level management issue. When consumers can leverage channels like the Internet to connect with one another and to identify and distribute information about companies, all of a sudden there is a shift in power toward the consumer or other stakeholder organizations.

    So it's not necessarily businesses buying from other businesses driving this trend. It's more about consumers and consumer-related groups?

    It's as much a consumer-driven approach as it is a business-to-business issue. That said, there are a lot of corporations that are taking some leadership positions. For example, Wal-Mart (WMT) is driving a number of compliance issues related to sustainability with their upstream channel partners, or suppliers. That's one example of business-to-business activity.

    For years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was an add-on to businesses and was basically a kind of marketing. But now it seems customers want companies to embed social responsibility into their strategies, right?

    That's right. In the past, when many of us were going to business school, the focus was on shareholder value. Now with the influence these other stakeholders have, it is really about a broader definition of "who are the folks you're trying to please while running your business?" It's about shareholders and other stakeholders, as opposed to focusing only on shareholder value.

    But many CEOs don't really believe that, do they?

    Actually, some of the data we've got says differently. CEOs of 68% of the companies we talked to really are focusing their CSR efforts on growth opportunities. To be sure, 96% of the companies we talked to try to fully comply with all the legal and regulatory issues. They certainly don't want to get sued. But more recently, there has been a shift to use the CSR lens to find new growth opportunities.

    Of that 68%, about 50% of them have started looking at CSR as a growth platform only in the past couple of years. There's something happening, and it's happening pretty quickly.

    How can CSR be a growth opportunity?

    Here's an example: There's a company in Mexico, Cemex (CX), the large cement company. They discovered there were a lot of individuals, as opposed to companies, who would love to buy their cement to build their houses. They generally are a much poorer population and they do build their own homes. The problem was that they couldn't afford the cement.

    Cemex identified that issue and said, "Look, we've got to be able to create a platform for these people to improve their lots in life and to make our materials available to them." The best way to do that was to create some financing structures that allowed these low-income folks to be able to pay for cement to increase the size of their homes. That solution not only helps people but it also provides financial growth and new revenue streams for Cemex. They've been growing in that segment of the market by 250% a year.

    What's an American example?

    Take Starbucks (SBUX). One of the core value propositions Starbucks offers to consumers is the notion of fair-trade coffee. To a significant portion of loyal Starbucks customers, that's a big deal.

    One thing that's important is you have to really understand what your customers are looking for. Every Starbucks customer doesn't necessarily care about fair-trade policies, but many do. Every company needs to understand in more detail what are the key needs their customer groups have and then figure out what they can do to address those needs.

    About 76% of the companies we talked to didn't understand exactly what their customers were looking for with regard to CSR, and only 17% had ever had a conversation with customers about it, meaning 83% had never done so.

    Are U.S. consumers attaching a greater sense of social responsibility to their purchases of things like Nike (NKE) shoes made in China?

    These issues are driving actual purchasing. About 60% of consumers indicate that when they make purchase decisions they do take into account social and environmental factors. The second point is that about a quarter of them don't feel they have a socially responsible alternative and if they did, they would switch brands.

    On the flip side, we have clients who have 25,000 to 50,000 suppliers. If you're trying to manage your brands in such a way that you have to take into account the actions of these suppliers when they aren't part of your company, you need to go way beyond the level of responsibility and accountability that you had to go through before.

    In the case of Nike, what's interesting is that they've changed their policy. Instead of trying to protect information about where they do production, they share it much more openly. If anyone, including a nongovernmental organization (NGO) or a consumer, indicates there's a problem with one of their suppliers, Nike will take action. Nike has enfranchised groups that would have typically come after it, and turned a problem into an opportunity.

    If U.S. consumers are shifting from the attitude that they just want to buy the best product at the best price, is that a major development?

    Yes, it's taking place in America and everywhere. When we ran the study, we looked for differences across geographies, from Europe to the Americas to Asia, and we weren't able to find any significant differences.

    How should CEOs take these new ideas into their thinking? What do they do differently?

    Three things. One is that they have to focus on CSR not for permission to do business, just complying on laws and regulations, but as a growth platform. Two is to move from the point where they're simply reacting to different constituents and organizations finding out things about them to becoming much more transparent about sharing information.

    Lastly, they need to move from limiting the exposure that a customer or an NGO has to their company to being a lot more engaged with all constituents—NGOs or government groups or consumer groups or individual consumers. Changing the nature of that relationship toward becoming more collaborative is imperative.

    Why have these activist groups become so powerful?

    They're more powerful because they can scale more rapidly and it's much easier to share information, leveraging the Internet. In the 1970s a consumer may have written to a company as part of a letter-writing campaign. But today an individual consumer can videotape the effluent from a chemical plant and post it on YouTube and create a whole community of outraged consumers. That level of influence is unprecedented. It's not just the Internet. There are a whole slew of other technologies like digital video recorders.

    What is IBM's interest in this trend?

    First is that we've been a leader in social responsibility for quite a while. But the other commercial reason is that we have a consulting practice that has interest in doing this and has a lot of capabilities that can help our clients deal with how they can become more sensitive corporate citizens.

    Does that involve technological solutions?

    It involves everything from supplier management systems to carbon footprint management. We have a combination of services plus technology that allow us to help clients with these issues.

    Holstein is an independent business journalist and author in New York.

    I would encourage you to share this broadly,

    Stay tuned for the invite to our first Community call.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

    Jeff Hittner
    Corporate Social Responsibility Lead
    IBM Global Business Services
    Mobile: 508 308 6619
    E mail: jhittner@us.ibm.com