Survey Says: Companies Fall into the "Green Gap"

carbon footprints photo

Global carbon footprints at Oxfam Climate Change campaign. Photo via Flickr by net_efekt

Not surprisingly, companies going "green" lack follow-up on measuring efficiency. What may be surprising is that this "news" comes from IBM. The company conducted its second annual survey of business execs about Corporate Social Responsibility policies with sustainability practices around the globe and discovered there was a lot lacking. In IBM's survey, the 224 responses indicate a widening gap between companies establishing goals and achieving them. The report says that businesses are committed to CSR principles and want to contribute to society, reduce environmental impact, and (ahem) improve their reputations, but fall short in three trouble spots:

• Companies aren't collecting and analyzing information often enough, so can't implement changes to increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact

• Few collect enough CSR data from suppliers, so data is inconsistent, inefficient and increases waste/risk

• Most don't understand concerns of key customers, so miss out on valuable potential for improvements

Most only collect data on CO2 emissions quarterly — enough for regulatory reports but not enough to make systemic changes that would actually reduce environmental impact. Only 30 percent collect data frequently enough to make strategic decisions in key categories: CO2, water, waste, energy, sustainable procurement, labor standards, product composition, and product lifecycle. Eric Riddleberger of IBM said this:

Our survey participants clearly understand that integrating CSR considerations into their business strategies is essential to their growth and performance, but it's also pretty obvious many of them don't know what they need to know to actually make changes that would improve both business performance and societal impact.

Oh yeah. Riddleberger heads up the company's corporate social responsibility consulting division. Apparently IBM's green efforts have been so successful, it's an expert in the field. It contends that those who do it right, outperform competitors. Besides running more efficiently, they attract employees, customers, and opportunities. The results are interesting, if change is implemented.

Often listed in CSR green policies is the "raise awareness" campaign. Perhaps loads of people still don't know about water conservation, recycling and energy consumption. But it seems that "calls to action" would be much more effective. Not as easy as telling people what to do. With the grab for government recovery money, more corporations are "going green," so IBM should be busy.

More on Corporate Social Responsibility:
Absolutely Greener, Relatively Speaking: A Closer Look at CSR
TH Interview - Kevin Hagen on Corporate Responsibility at REI
MIcrosoft Cutting Social Responsibility PR Budget
Book Review - Corporate Social Responsibility and Globalisation

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