Corporate social responsibility and sustainability: How to save the earth

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There’s less and less oil, the earth is warming, and sea levels are rising. Humans – and the earth – can’t continue like this. Today corporate social responsibility and sustainability must go hand in hand. So, what can we as companies and end consumers do to ensure that more than 7 billion people can live on the planet without destroying it? How can we create a culture of sustainability?

The topic of sustainability – particularly what might be done in the fields of commerce and e-commerce – is a big topic that’s multi-layered.

One thing is clear: It’s our collective responsibility to prevent climate change and to shape our digital transformation responsibility, because it affects all of us, in all aspects of life.

What is corporate social responsibility: CSR definition

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a term used to describe the efforts, stances, and policies that companies undertake and enforce in an effort to positively impact the world. It’s also known as corporate citizenship. CSR has become more important today as both employees and customers are demanding that companies align with their values and give back to better society.

Examples of CSR initiatives include:

  1. Improving the environment
  2. Social justice efforts
  3. Employee volunteerism
  4. Charitable contributions
  5. Partnerships with other companies that focus on social betterment

How to create a culture of sustainability within companies

With consumers driving social change via their purchasing decisions, corporate social responsibility and sustainability are now – and forevermore – inevitably intertwined.

Companies are increasingly required to restructure themselves sustainably. Not only because the ecological and social problems are becoming more threatening every day, but also because the pressure on companies to act is now coming from multiple sources. Regulators, customers, and investors are all demanding verifiable sustainability.

The awareness of the need to produce and consume sustainably must be ingrained in all of us, at all levels and functions, but notably at the executive level.

Studies show that younger buyers prefer to buy from brands that embrace a culture of sustainability and have a positive social impact. Executives could start by addressing the needs of these young consumers.

Engaging conscious consumers not only helps the environment, but also strengthens brand loyalty and improves the bottom line.

There are currently no internationally recognized certificates or seals based on an objectively verified and publicly traceable catalog of criteria. But even without regulations, companies can take independent steps towards sustainability, including “re-commerce.”

Rethink, reuse, and recycle: Sustainable commerce

Re-commerce, also known as sustainable commerce, is the reuse of products and materials. The fashion industry has already started to restructure and fortunately many are now focusing on sustainable fashion.

From fast fashion to slow fashion, the goal is to promote the reusability of raw materials and products instead of providing short-lived products. Products made from recycled plastic as well as second-hand products are sustainably processed are becoming popular.

Online retailers regularly use standard carton sizes for all products and fill the empty space with packaging material. Businesses need to consolidate packaging and avoid paper and plastic in order to reduce superfluous packing and keep package transportation green.

Since returns are often free, unfortunately, many individuals order more than they need when they can return them for free. To discourage returns, free delivery should be reduced.

In addition, long transportation routes can have a significant impact on the environment, so companies should focus on reducing transportation routes by locating smaller warehouses and distribution facilities closer to customers.

But here’s the good news: Sustainability is gaining more and more traction. Companies such as SAP (Climate21) and Amazon (The Climate Pledge) are collaborating to positively counteract this issue.

Conscious consumerism 

Companies carry a high level of responsibility in creating a culture of sustainability, and consumers are also taking action by focusing on what they buy, and how and where they buy it.

This is the inflection point where commerce becomes incredibly important. For example, I now prefer regional products over imported goods from distant places – it both supports local farmers, and is also healthier. When purchasing, whether online or offline, I research the materials and ingredients, as well as how and where the product was made.

The Canadian grocery IGA Extra Famille Duchemin is a good example, since they grow their own fruit and vegetables on the roof of their store. This saves the supermarket energy, cooling, and delivery costs while consumers know exactly where their produce comes from – the organic garden on the roof.

There are several paths we may take to make a difference in our environment – most are small, but the impact is greatest when everyone participates.

Corporate social responsibility and sustainability go hand in hand, and sustainable commerce isn’t a trend. By addressing these issues together, we can save the earth, step by step.

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Yurdanur Marangoz-Yesilirmak

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