Graphics: Sustainability and Businesses – How Reliable are Corporate Social Responsibility reports?

 As part of INESAD’s November Environmental Sustainability month, today’s Monday Graphics series is investigating sustainability in businesses.

This Global Sustainability Scorecard was compiled by McDonalds about its business’s sustainability. Many companies produce graphics like these to make consumers aware of their efforts to protect or contribute to the environment and society (for other big name examples, see the graphics put together by Apple and H&M). While analyzing these, consumers should keep the overall picture in mind: is going green in your office really a mark of sustainability? Are promises that businesses make about one area of their production chain, such as McDonald’s does here about fishing, neglecting their unsustainable habits in other areas? Industrial beef production, for instance, remains a huge problem and causes diseases and deforestation, and McDonald’s happens to be one of its main proponents. Are the businesses really helping the environment, or are they only making their impact ‘less bad’? Read our recently published article on the topic ‘How ‘sustainable’ is sustainable development in the corporate world?’ 

The following Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability graphic is produced by yet another business, this time McGraw-Hill, a company whose primary areas are finance, education and publishing. The graphic claims that the company is working towards a “smarter, better world” and aiding the growth of a “knowledge economy.” One of the notable aspects of their sustainability review is their emphasis not only on the environment but also on society. Many companies seem to think that sustainability is only about going green, when actually it has far-reaching social dimensions, for example providing fairly-paid jobs and making sure their success does not rest upon the exploitation of others.

The bottom line is, many companies have started realizing that consumers care about where their products come from and what effect they are having on the world around them. However, consumers need to continue putting pressure on the brands they buy from. The first of the following two graphics, from the 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker by 3BL Media shows that people’s expressed expectations differ from how they actually make purchases, and that only about half of those who say that sustainability matters in their buying choices actually use that kind of information when buying goods and services. On the other hand, half the people following through is actually pretty impressive from an awareness and conscious shopping perspective. Either way, it is important for consumers to make these types of demands and learn where their spending habits are supporting unsustainable businesses, because the chances of companies responding to economic demands are likely larger than their willingness to comply with green suggestions. If unsustainable businesses don’t give into buyers’ demands for sustainable products, they may not be able to sustain themselves any longer.

The second graphic entitled Blueprint for a Sustainable Brand from Havas Worldwide’s (formerly Euro RSCG Worldwide) Consumer Conscience study, reiterates that activism for sustainability is growing, and that this is something companies need to be aware of as they make long-term financial plans. In fact, the graphic proposes that social media is one of the key tools in bringing about consumer awareness and environmental change, which could explain why sustainability has become such an important topic especially in the last few years. The information is based on an online survey of 4,000 adults in Brazil, China, France, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

 With consumer awareness rising and corporate social responsibility gaining popularity, the relationship between producer and buyer is starting to take on a more sustainable nature. However, it is important to keep in mind the various aspects that sustainability should cover – environmental, social, and financial – and not let oneself be tricked by big ‘green’-sounding words. Most importantly, consumers need to make further demands about how the products they buy are made and apply their principles when making purchases. Only this way will companies be encouraged to yield to sustainability pressure.

Do you know of any infographics or reports that can act as a blueprint for developing truly sustainable businesses? Leave a reply below.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for the excellent infographcs on CSR – you are doing a very good job and we shall be happy to disseminate further your important messages.
    B.Cizelj

  2. I’ll right away snatch your rss as I can’t to find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

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