CSR in Germany Part II – Future of CSR in Germany

In my first post about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Germany a while back now, I talked about the three key developments in CSR over the past few years.

Todays post is about the three major future developments phases I see for CSR in Germany. I have worked in the CSR field for a while now and being German I obviously always felt close to the Germany and as a consequence watched the CSR developments unfold over the past few years with interest.

One Big Challenge
There is one big hurdle for a continuous successful adoption of CSR practices for Germany in my opinion. The current financial crisis. Why? Well many reasons but I think the biggest problem with CSR practices within an organization will be the lack of funds within a business to start their CSR activities. In the wake of the restructuring of departments within businesses will the CSR budgets suffer as well. This is obviously not only a German problem.

But CSR as with every corporate change process needs sufficient initial funding to get of the ground. So lets hope, for the sake of the German CSR initiatives (and all CSR activities/budgets across the globe), that this financial crisis will not last that long anymore or that the German public will realize that CSR is a key element of the future of their business environment and demand increased CSR investment from business.

Once this crisis is behind us I am of the opinion that CSR practices in Germany will undergo three major development phases in terms of CSR practice.

The three major future development phases for CSR in Germany

  • More and more companies will be hearing about CSR and CSR best practice across the globe. German companies can be slow to adopt new business practices sometimes. The level of skepticism is traditionally quite high in German business. This has always been the case and can be regarded as both good and bad in my opinion. As a result the major companies in the main German share index, DAX 30, will be likely to all report on their CSR practices. This development will then also be an important driver for the adoption of CSR  by more and more smaller companies.
  • CSR as a term will be more closely aligned with Environmentalism and move towards Sustainability, not just CSR itself. Environmentalism is traditionally very big in Germany and ingrained in the German culture. The likelihood that CSR and Environmentalism will be combined into the overall concept of Sustainability is very high. You might ask yourself why this is the second major development phase but definitions have a big importance in the German way to do business so to say. Once the terminology is agreed the German mentality is usually to move on and focus on the next phase of Sustainability.
  • Once there are more people/businesses involved and the political establishment will have realized that this is something they need to support, then Sustainability (CSR and Environmentalism) will be a key element in the sustainable future for German business. This is the special aspect about German business. Once they decide on doing something they usually get on with it and do not question the decision made. A really good cultural trait in my opinion.

These are the three major development phases I see in German business with regards to CSR. But this is only my point of view and judgement of course. I am more then happy to hear other points of views. Not only the German point of view of course but other cultural contexts in adopting CSR.

Picture Credit: Arenamontanus

Five interesting Sustainability Questions and Answers

Todays post is about some interesting Sustainability LinkedIn question and answers I found recently.

I think that LinkedIn Answers is a very useful place for sustainability to ask relevant questions and get answers from professionals around the globe.

If you like to know more about LinkedIn answers then please check out my blog entry on the whole topic from October 2009 titled “Using LinkedIn Answers to promote Sustainability”.

And these are five questions and answers from the site I found interesting to share with you:

  1. If a company is claiming to be green and they refuse to look at greener suppliers are they really green?
  2. Do you think Sustainable Development is a burning need of the hour, Why …?
  3. What are the most innovative ideas and companies you have seen in the green space?
  4. We are looking to go paperless in our office and are examining all of our options. Do you have any recommendations, horror stories, tips, experience with this in your own office? What products do you use and what agency management system do you work with?
  5. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has a tremendous enabling opportunity to impact climate change. In your opinion, what areas require enhanced focus (e.g., smart homes, smart transport)?

What do you think about the LinkedIn Answers Sustainability area? Will you be using it?

Video: 12 sustainable design ideas from nature

Learning from the natural world is something we are not doing often enough. This is a quote form the very interesting and inspiring video from a self-proclaimed nature nerd Janine Benyus.

Her concept of biomimicry has galvanized scientists, architects, designers and engineers into exploring new ways in which nature’s successes can inspire humanity. Definitely worth the investment of 20 minutes for your time.


Money over Sustainability

The question from my last poll was whether you thought that CSR / Sustainability activities where influencing your decision which product to buy or not to buy. This is the link to the post about the poll question.

The Result
The result (details in the chart below) show that the users that answered this poll where strongly influenced by the CSR / Sustainability practices by the company (58% of votes). They where also willing to pay more for these products at the same time.

But this result also shows that there are also significant doubts when it comes to the price of the product in question. 29% percent of the people that voted where price conscious first and then looked at the CSR / Sustainability practice of this company once they agreed that the price was what they wanted to spent.

What Does this Result Mean?
Obviously we need to take into account that the majority of the audience that answered are in some way of the other more sustainability conscious then the general public. This is just the nature of my network of people to whom I asked this question and this means that the audience was a little biased towards the “Yes” answer.

So taking this into account what is the learning from this poll?
It is fair to say that our purchasing decisions are increasingly influenced by the CSR / Sustainability practices. Why would anyone for example not buy from a company that took extra care of their employees and suppliers, was open takes actions to minimize its environmental impact and communicated in an open and honest way with their stakeholders.

But and this is a HUGE but, the deciding factor for every consumer is whether this product from the more responsible company is not more expensive then the comparing brand.

This is in my opinion the main reason for companies to not advertise their CSR / Sustainability practices more. Because it so far does not sell more then doing it the way it has always been done. This is very sad but reality unfortunately.