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boom time US tempts Brits to venture abroad

December 2007

Rapidly increasing interest in responsible business practice in America has prompted two UK-based specialist consultancies to establish operations across the Atlantic.

London-based Context, which specializes in strategy and communications, has set up in New York, while Credit360 has created its first US base in Chicago.

Context said its decision had been prompted by the need to service existing clients such as Coca-Cola, Motorola and United Technologies, and also to win new business. It will work in partnership with public relations consultancy Dan Klores Communications.

Context director Peter Knight, who has moved to New York as president of Context America, said the boom in the US was largely the result of interest in climate change. ‘Everyone is talking green in the US. The media is flooded with articles and advertisements,’ he told EP. ‘This is a direct result of Al Gore’s work putting climate change on the political agenda in Washington, as well as the need to reduce dependence on Middle East oil. And companies realize they need to respond to the new agenda.’

Credit360, a Cambridge-based consultancy that helps companies manage their social and environmental data, has appointed Christina O’Connell, former senior vice-president of the Flag consultancy, to head the Chicago office, which will have an initial staff complement of four.

Mark Shields, founder of Credit360, said his company was responding to the rising interest in corporate responsibility data collection in North America, where its clients include Chevron, Ford and the Canadian outdoor clothing company MEC.

Meanwhile, the UK-based corporate responsibility recruitment agency Acre Resources has announced it will also expand into the US next year, although it has not yet finalized details. Co-founder Tom Leathes said US recruitment activity had ‘taken off’ in the past six months and many American companies were finding it difficult to recruit talented and experienced sustainability managers.

One consultancy in the US told EP there was a ‘dearth’ of experienced Americans and that many organizations were looking towards Europe to fill posts.

Knight added that Context’s marketing would stress ‘we have the skills and experience – over ten years in business – that local firms lack’.

Bennett Freeman, senior vice-president for social research and policy at Calvert Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state, said the surge of interest in corporate responsibility was partly due to ‘a quarter century or more of advocates building the business case’ but also because of climate change worries that have ‘legitimized our mission ... as never before’.

The number of organizations in the US offering such services to the corporate market has risen by almost 100 per cent in the last 12 months, from 94 in 2006 to 187 in 2007, according to analysis of the data of entrants in the latest edition of the Ethical performance CSR professional services directory, which will be published in January 2008.

UK-based consultancy csrnetwork has opened an office in Berlin to service its German-based clients such as adidas, E.ON and Henkel.



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