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The world is changing quickly. In the last 5 or so years, the global consciousness of how finite our earthly resources are and how we should treat our fellow humans have come clearly to the fore. More and more people are choosing not to eat meat or at least have more meat-free days in their week. There has been a rising popularity of electric vehicles, and the supporting infrastructure has grown explosively.
Some trends even indicate that younger generations forego owning an automobile altogether and rather opt for public means of transportation and a rental model when a car is really necessary. Left and right businesses sprout up that put ‘environmentally conscious‘ down as one of their primary business motivations. No longer the boutique, hipster-Esque small enterprise that is an oddity on the high street. New sustainable businesses with the circular economy in mind. It’s a whole new world.
Corporate Social Responsibility
That’s not to say that ‘old’ businesses are falling behind. Even large corporations have woken up to the idea that they have a responsibility as well. There is obviously the corporate social responsibility (CSR) element to it, where reputation matters. CSR has been around for well over 50 years but really came into the public eye when H&M and Nike made a faux pas (and since encapsulated CSR in their business practices).
But CSR, which was essentially the harmful effect of a bad or smeared reputation, has been replaced with a deeper sense of social responsibility. It’s less about ‘not doing bad,’ but more so about being a positive force for good.
And being a positive force for good goes way beyond making sure waste is being recycled and doing the odd CSR project once a year. It requires companies to make fundamental changes in the way they do business. It starts with more companies switching to electric vehicles or utilizing state-of-the-art fleet solutions to ensure maximum efficiency and lower emissions of company vehicles. It also means asking the canteen to offer serious and attractive meat-free meals, rather than just grey goop because it’s cheap.
It also means offering employees flexibility in working hours and flex-working from home, more fitting with the demands of modern-day (family) life. It extends to ensuring everyone has a decent wage that will pay the bills and allows for at least a fulfilling life.
Even in the supply chain, companies will look ever closer to weed out any negative elements that might not be up to scratch in terms of doing good. It’s not surprising to see that due diligence processes have become more and more stringent. And all this scrutiny comes at a price where companies no longer seem to be focused on maximizing profits (and therefore, shareholder value).
A new stakeholder has (re)emerged, the employees. Perhaps not organized in traditional unions, but as we have seen consumer activism, we now see the rise of employee activism. Just look at recent examples of Facebook employees or Google employees putting their foot down on topics that matter to them. Not exactly the usual examples of companies stuck in ‘old ways.’
If even Google has to up their game to keep up with the times, who knows what’s in store for any other company out there.
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