Businesses are increasingly turning to corporate social responsibility to drive down costs and to appeal to customers, according to Grant Thornton.
For its latest International Business Report, the company asked 2,500 businesses across 34 economies what was driving their CSR activity, to give examples of CSR initiatives and to detail how these were being reported.
The survey found an increase in drivers to move towards more environmentally and socially sustainable business practices. Cost management was the main driver globally, followed by customer demand and because it is the “right thing to do”.
The vast majority of businesses were involved with local charities, either through donating time, money or products and services. Businesses were also working to reduce their environmental impact, with increasing numbers calculating the carbon footprint of their operations.
Sustainability reporting had increased since 2011, with more than half of businesses viewing integrated reporting as best practice.
In the UK, increased scrutiny from stakeholders and demand from the public for greater transparency was putting pressure on companies to become more socially and environmentally responsible. But the survey showed that corporate responsibility increasingly made good financial sense.
Jane Stevensen, director of sustainability at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “Across the world, CSR and broader business objectives are becoming more aligned. The findings suggest that the benefits of adopting more environmentally and socially sustainable business practices are becoming ever more tangible, for example through tax relief on charitable activity or lower energy bills due to efficiency measures introduced.
“Despite the overall recognition of cost benefits, it’s interesting to see that British businesses seem far more reactive in their approach to CSR and are largely responding to stakeholders’ needs.”
Paul Raleigh, global leader – strategic development and growth, Grant Thornton, added that CSR could be the difference that beats the competition.
“The leadership of dynamic businesses towards more socially responsible and transparent practices is likely to emerge as a competitive edge to unlock their potential for growth in an ever more crowded marketplace,” he said.