Can Sustainability, Green or CSR Survive a Recession?

I’ve seen this question quite a bit lately in all sorts of trade and business press. While I suppose it makes an interesting headline to some, the question makes absolutely no sense to me. It might be fair to ask if a certain business, product line or initiative would be hurt by a recession – but the WAY you conduct business doesn’t stop in a period of uncertainty.

I’m certainly not the first to opine on this subject. In fact, in searching, I see my friends over at Sun commented on this subject almost a month ago. I’ve also seen related stories in Ethical Corp, GreenBiz and Environmental Leader. I also won’t have the last word.

I don’t see stories asking the question…Will the Recession put an end to Saving Money through Conservation Efforts?Good Corporate Decision Making?Treating Employees and Communities Fairly?Applying Corporate Know-How to Societal Challenges?… or Competing for the Environmentally Aware Consumer?

Is it possible that companies will scrutinize grant making or philanthropy a little more strategically? Of course. Might an advertising or communications campaign get cut? Of course. This is a far cry from asking if the way responsible companies do business will cease to exist.

CSR, Sustainability and Green aren’t supplements to business success; they are the key ingredients for success in the 21st century.

3 thoughts on “Can Sustainability, Green or CSR Survive a Recession?

  1. To question the possible survival of sustainability, green or CSR in a period of economic uncertainty (‘recession’ is really a situation we create ourselves, as a reaction to our emotional response to economic factors and the words of the popular press confusing facts with the need to sell copy) is to miss the point of these concepts entirely.
    A company who has built sustainability into its business strategy and ethics is one which recognises the finite nature of the resources it draws upon in order to execute its core activities. By applying green principles it naturally operates within the mantra of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and is, as a result, a leaner, meaner and more efficient commercial organism; and its appliance of corporate social responsibility, internally and externally, makes it, if not recession-proof, certainly recession resistant.
    The old sales story of the hot-dog seller and his son is particularly relevant at this time of economic turbulence; it is those companies who adhere to the principles above who are saying “what recession?”
    We spend our time with prospects and clients who want to go green but appear to miss the point that what we are trying to get them to do is practice cost control and reduction, as the first step to reducing their corporate impact on the environment, to lure them away from carbon-offsetting and lure them into carbon reduction.
    Going green is actually good for business, commercially; it makes for a more financially efficient organisation (sustainable in every sense) and drives business behaviour, from the top down, which not only inculcates a culture of CSR but also increases profitability.
    It’s time for the blue suits to erase the image of the environmentalists as extremist tree-huggers and recognise us for what we are; smart businessmen who understand (and are willing and keen to share that understanding of) the relationship between corporate and environmental responsibility and the creation (and growth) of sustainable and profitable business ventures and activities.
    As you very succintly put it, “CSR, Sustainability and Green aren’t supplements to business success; they are the key ingredients for success in the 21st century.”

  2. Want to protect the earth and save energy? Then stop all wars, conflicts and terrorism. How do you do that? Make the United States free of foreign oil. When the US is energy independent there will be no more oil wars and the terrorists will no longer be able or interested in reaching us. This will save lives AND energy. Let’s study what Denmark, France, Brazil, and Australia have done on diversifying their energy supplies and do likewise. Let’s drill wherever we have oil and put a new nuclear power plant in every state. Let’s use all our coal and natural gas. We don’t need foreign energy. And we will be safer, greener, and richer with out it. All of the earth’s natural resources will be eventually used by someone at some time. Would your rather these resources be recovered in an ecological friendly and sustainable way by the US or that some dictator who could not care less about the environment exploit the earth. All alternative sources of energy will take decades to bring online because their conversion efficiencies are not yet high enough. Eventually, the US will lead the world into a sustainable green economy, but energy independence comes first. It is the low hanging fruit and gives immediate benefits now.

  3. Hi Dave – great points, succinctly put. Indeed, I’ve recently said much the same on my own blog, CR Matters. As far as I’m concerned, if it encourages companies to approach their CR activities more strategically, or to think twice about the next big budget bit of greenwash, then there’s definitely a silver lining to this cloud!

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