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Emerging market CEOs ready to commit to CSR

October 2010

There’s good reason to believe emerging market countries will be in the vanguard of future CSR initiatives, according to an analysis of chief executive opinions in such nations.

A new breakdown of figures contained in a recent study of CEO views on sustainability showed that 66 per cent of business leaders in emerging market economies said sustainability was now ‘very important’ to their success, compared with 54 per cent in OECD nations.

It also found that 84 per cent said recent global economic difficulties have led them to increase alignment on sustainability within their business, compared with 71 per cent in the developed world.

The figures, revealed for the first time at the Academy of Business in Society (Eabis) annual conference in Russia last month, were compiled by looking in more depth at results of the largest ever global sustainability survey of senior executives, published by the management consultancy Accenture earlier this year (EP12, issue 3, p6).

Peter Lacy, managing director of sustainability services at Accenture, told the Eabis conference there were ‘reasons to be extremely positive’ about emerging markets taking up CSR enthusiastically.

‘CEOs in these countries see sustainability and success as indivisible going forward,’ he said. ‘They see it as a business imperative, not as something that’s nice to have or optional.’

He added: ‘It’s quite clear from the conversations we’ve had that a number of leading companies in emerging markets are more ambitious about the standards they can achieve than many businesses in OECD nations.’

However, the analysis, which drew on interviews or questionnaires completed with 766 chief executives worldwide, found significant differences between the outlooks of emerging market and developed nation CEOs.

Fewer of the former – 38 per cent as against 44 per cent – were personally motivated to improve their company’s social and environmental issues, while emerging nation business leaders were also happier to see government driving the agenda and were more likely to focus their attention on issues such as poverty, water, and food security, as opposed to western preoccupations with issues such as diversity and gender.

While Lacy said he was optimistic about the future health of CSR in the developing world, he issued a health warning on the results, as they are largely based on responses from companies that have signed up to the United Nations Global Compact.

Arthur Appleton, a member of the Evian Group Brains Trust, which advises the Evian group on policy in emerging markets, told delegates at the St Petersburg conference it would be unrealistic to expect firms in the developing world to move quickly into CSR mode.
 
He argued that many businesses in up and coming nations are likely to make mistakes similar to those historically committed by their OECD counterparts before acting to improve their social and environmental records.




Academy of Business in Society | Global | Emerging markets

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