Time-bound targets in vogue, more needed

Progress towards corporate responsibility (CR) is being made, but is not enough to meet the international communities’ goals on climate change or world poverty, according to a new report co-authored by Griffith Business School Adjunct Associate Professor Jem Bendell.

Lifeworth’s seventh annual CR review will be released today (February 14) in Manila, Philippines by Associate Professor Bendell, who is also Director at Lifeworth.

The Review reports on a survey of CR professionals and found on current progress less than 60 percent of global economic activity would be environmentally sustainable by 2028, less than 80 percent by 2050, with a sustainable economy only achieved by 2070.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated the world needs more than 50 percent reductions by 2050, and science suggests 80 percent by that time to ensure we do not exceed a critical threshold of 2 degrees warming, Associate Professor Bendell said.

“That would mean at least a 20 percent reduction in the next 10 years, and given the growing emissions with industrialization in the global South, possibly even double that amount in the industrialized countries to offset it. A slower rate of change appears to be futile.

“On current trends only 50 percent of economic activity will be socially responsible by 2025 and only about 75 percent by 2050, so more needs to be done to eliminate world poverty.”

If everyone lived like Australians, ecological footprint calculations say we would need more than three planets to support us. If everyone lived like the average Asian we would also need more than one planet and Indian middle classes now have a higher per capita consumption of carbon than the average Briton.

“The message to business is continuous improvement is no longer enough,” Associate Professor Bendell said.

“Although investing in new management processes is key, making a commitment to a performance target helps add substance. Targets express an awareness of scale and urgency of an issue as well as a willingness to engage with it.”

The Review reveals a wave of corporations are now committing to specific time-bound environmental targets, concerning actual performance rather than management processes.

However the adoption of specific targets by companies is only the beginning.

“We should remember targets themselves are not the mechanisms of change. It appears many countries will miss their Kyoto targets, and the first Millennium Development Goals on primary school education have already been missed,” said Associate Professor Bendell.

“The solution may be for wider coalitions of groups to apply themselves to the factors that shape our economy – to explore ways of collaborating to shift whole markets.”

To coincide with the publication of the Review, Lifeworth is launching an online directory of corporate targets for social and environmental performance: www.responsibleenterprise.com

The Review is also being launched by co-sponsor Professor David Grayson, at the Belgium Business and Society Conference and the Copenhagen Business School from February 13 – 15 in Brussels and Copenhagen.

Lifeworth’s seventh annual review incorporates quarterly reviews from the Journal of Corporate Citizenship, published by Greenleaf, and is sponsored by the Griffith Business School, Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Cranfield School of Management. It is available to download for free from www.lifeworth.com