“There is nothing so practical as a good theory!” one of my Cranfield, professorial colleagues is fond of observing. (I imagine mentally adding “soundly applied.”)
Institutional Theory of social change suggests the importance of organisations which can convene, socialise new ideas, capacity-build and codify new good practice for successful social change processes. Hence, the attention that Jane Nelson and I gave to the emergence, growth and development of the corporate responsibility coalitions, in our 2013 book (Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past, Present and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism), to explain the movement for responsible business.
As part of our research for the book, we worked with GlobeScan a leader in stakeholder intelligence and engagement, to canvass the views of the leaders of the Corporate Responsibility coalitions across the world. Inter alia, we asked coalition leaders who they looked to amongst the other coalitions, for thought-leadership and new insights. We were interested to discover that, by some margin, the main peer-group source was WBCSD: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Fascinating to see, therefore, that the WBCSD is now building on its ambitious Vision 2050 to ensure nine billion people can live well, within the constraints of One Planet by mid-century, by establishing Action 2020. This is billed as “a platform for action, a platform for business to contribute solutions to environmental and social challenges” which is developed with WBCSD’s member companies and in partnership with the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the World Resources Institute.
Action2020 consists of nine Priority Areas – challenges that require urgent attention if the Vision 2050 is to be achieved. For each Priority Area, WBCSD has worked with teams of scientists and international experts to define Societal Must-Haves: goals to be met by 2020. “A Must-Have is informed by science, outcome-based, measurable, actionable by business and inspiring.” Action2020 also has a range of “business solutions.” These include already tested models, new pilot initiatives and signposting to a range of other partner initiatives.
If WBCSD and the national CR coalitions affiliated to it around the world, can persuade a critical mass of companies to implement these “business solutions” and help to develop further solutions; and, in turn, if WBCSD is open to collaboration with some of the other “field-builder” Corporate Responsibility Coalitions like CSR Europe (for example on the work that both WBCSD and separately CSR Europe are doing on Sustainable, Smart Cities), this may just start to give the world more time to enact the public policy shifts and new international frameworks that will be needed to achieve both sustainable capitalism and sustainable society.
David Grayson is co-author with Jane Nelson of Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past, Present and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism. He is Doughty Professor of Corporate Responsibility and director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management in the UK.