Greenleaf at 21: The Past, Present and Future of Corporate Social Responsibility

Namestyle_21Welcome to the Greenleaf at 21 blog series. To celebrate our 21st birthday, over the next few months we will be sharing original posts by influential Greenleaf authors, in which they discuss how their field has changed over the last 21 years and what they hope to see change in the future. This article by Tim Mohin reflects on the evolution of CSR:

Having worked in both government and industry, I have seen at least two sides of the environmental debate as it matured over the years. It is interesting (at least to me) to reflect on these changes and project the future of the green movement.
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CSR: Collaborate or compete?

Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD

Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility, AMD

As corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more of a brand differentiator, companies will both compete and collaborate on CSR issues. How can competitors partner on CSR for greater efficiency?

Companies are not charities; they exist to make a profit and create a return for investors. Following this logic, companies engage in CSR because it is in their own self-interest – it adds value to their business, writes Tim Mohin.

While helping people and the planet seems counterintuitive in a for-profit context, CSR is rapidly becoming an essential element of the corporate value proposition. In their article on Creating Shared Value in the Harvard Business Review January 2011, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer articulated this paradigm shift stating that: “Companies… remain trapped in an outdated approach to value creation that has emerged over the past few decades. They continue to view value creation narrowly, optimising short-term financial performance in a bubble while missing the most important customer needs and ignoring the broader influences that determine their longer-term success. How else could companies overlook the well-being of their customers, the depletion of natural resources vital to their businesses, the viability of key suppliers, or the economic distress of the communities in which they produce and sell?”
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