This is like a special-purpose tax and sounds like greenwashing to me. Instead, companies should include sustainability in their strategic projects. Cascading these goals down to the process-level typically leads to high motivation and job satisfaction, at all employee levels and ultimately saves the planet through sustainable products and services. CSR can be incorporated in many ways, e.g., by collaborating with local universities, hiring less privileged and even handicapped workers, investing in schools and education programs at all levels. If these initiatives are not driven through the company’s corporate strategy, CSR projects will collapse the moment funds stop coming.
Sustainable practices are proven to benefit our customers, associates and environment, yet they aren’t widely adopted. Until sustainability is as inherent as cash flow management to product development and business practices, I believe government has a role in guiding corporations to safeguard its citizens and environment.
However, mandates only take a company, an industry, or a society so far. To make meaningful progress, companies need to have a core belief in any initiative and in its ultimate value. As consumers, designers, manufacturers, and business leaders, we have to be out front leading change if we believe in sustainability as part of our ethos.
In order to enforce CSR in a given legal system, you need to have a clear definition of what CSR is. Before defining a minimum spend, governments should adopt international CSR Reporting standards like GRI 4.0
. Then companies would know their reporting responsibilities and subsequently their areas of potential CSR initiatives. Individual mandates are arbitrary and only lead to restating or repurposing existing initiatives in companies. No one would really gain anything.
Companies should behave socially responsible always, not just when it is good for their image or when forced by law. A regulatory framework supporting CSR definitely will help, but needs to be global to avoid corporate migrations to places with looser regulations.
Businesses should take some responsibility for costs that their operations impose on society, for example pollution or health risks to workers. But these costs are hard to measure, and what matters in one industry or country is not necessarily relevant to others. A good step forward would be consistent, mandatory disclosure of a few basic metrics, for example, the total carbon footprint from operations, or the minimum wage paid. Fortunately, many companies have opportunities that pass the dual test of supporting CSR principles as well as enhancing profits; any legally enforced CSR should start with these.