'Ongoing attacks…are expected to increase' says Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals
In today's rapidly evolving business environment, two acronyms have taken center stage: CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). These concepts are not new, but their significance and implementation have grown exponentially in recent years, and now, according to Carolyn Berkowitz, president and CEO of the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals, these ideas are under threat.
“Ongoing attacks on ESG, including corporate DEI, social responsibility (CSR), and sustainability, are expected to increase as politicians look to score points with their base during a divisive election cycle,” suggests Berkowitz, referring to the U.S. presidential election, which once again features Donald Trump as a front-runner for the republican nomination. “The financial and reputational benefits of ESG practices will far outlive this election cycle and other external short-term forces,” claims Berkowitz.
She notes this resistance is a symptom of political polarization and division. "The vocal minority is short-sighted in calling for companies, governments, and other agencies not to require transparency in the work that companies are doing."
Berkowitz says these strategies make recruiting and retaining top talent easier, drive sales, and appeal to socially conscious investors. “CSR and an ESG are good for business and provide companies with a competitive advantage," professes Berkowitz.
CSR and ESG in the health and safety profession
These challenges also affect health and safety professionals who increasingly find themselves incorporating social governance and corporate responsibility into their roles. "CSR and ESG are disciplines that require training and experience," states Berkowitz, suggesting these practices are not mere add-ons but evolving specialties that demand dedicated resources.
"It doesn't surprise me that CSR and ESG may become part of the health and safety role," says Berkowitz. She explains that while these practices often start as additional responsibilities, their significance and complexity often lead to dedicated roles.
One critical aspect of effectively integrating CSR and ESG into health and safety roles is ensuring proper resourcing. "To derive the true value from doing it, it requires specialty skills, experience, and knowledge," warns Berkowitz.
Navigating the challenges
In today's political climate, companies that genuinely embrace CSR and ESG principles may face criticism. However, Berkowitz emphasizes that most companies continue their efforts, even if they adjust their language to avoid controversy. "The regulatory environment is increasing its scrutiny, not decreasing," she points out, “even if the language changes to avoid scrutiny, the commitment remains.”
Despite the challenges and pushback, many top-level CEOs understand the importance of CSR and ESG initiatives. Companies that lead with their values and align with the values of their stakeholders often reap the rewards.
CSR and ESG have become integral to the modern business landscape. Health and safety professionals must adapt to this changing environment by embracing these principles and recognizing their importance, and how they may impact their individual roles within a company.
While political challenges persist, companies that lead with their values and invest in CSR and ESG initiatives are likely to thrive, gaining a competitive edge, and contributing positively to a more sustainable future.