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Leading a sustainable enterprise

Corporate Social Responsibility: Leveraging insight and information to act

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Today, more than ever, organizations are focused on environmental and social responsibility as a strategic objective. Our survey of senior executives worldwide shows that 60 percent believe that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has increased in importance over the past year. Only 6 percent say it's a lower priority.

To be sustainable, businesses are now embracing a relatively new objective: optimizing their operations to improve environmental and social outcomes in a manner that increases overall performance. As a result, executives face entirely new decisions and must manage an intricate new set of trade-offs.

Outperforming companies in environmental and social responsibility are those that have become adept at collecting relevant and timely information from across their ecosystems, including their customers. These organizations and leaders in CSR point to a path forward – developing new sources of information and new levels of insight for meeting strategic sustainability objectives.

What’s holding other organizations back? There are some very real obstacles. As is the case with many new ventures, it can be difficult to determine what information is needed. Should organizations seeking to improve sustainability look into the tsunami of realtime, unstructured information? If they do, will they know how to turn the information into insight and action? What information should they share and request of others? And how do they manage all of these new information needs in a cost-effective way?

Early efforts suggest that collaboration is the best approach. Instead of going it alone, leading organizations are exchanging information with customers, industry groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to increase their access to a wider pool of knowledge and their ability to benchmark. They are joining with partners, suppliers and even competitors to exchange leading practices and ultimately build out common standards for sustainability. Standards are a requirement for effectively implementing a CSR strategy over the long term.

By collaborating and utilizing up-to-date information and standards, today’s organizations can improve sustainability, while also increasing operational efficiency and performance.

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Meet the authors

Anthony Marshall, Senior Research Director, IBM Institute for Business Value

Eric Riddleberger

Connect with author:

, Comms Sector Strategy & Transformation Practice Leader IBM Global Business Services

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