Can Consumers Incite Change? My Thoughts on a Key Question

Can consumers actually motivate the companies they do business with to change their behaviour to support sustainable goals and outcomes?   This is one of the fundamental questions for CSR practitioners and a topic we weren’t afraid to tackle at the recent BT Better Future Forum.

At the event we had the opportunity to gather an incredible group of people together to dive into this topic – including Dame Ellen MacArthur, Lord Michael Hastings, and Climate Group CEO, Mark Kenber – which produced lively debate and inspired me to write up my thoughts for Business Green.

Below, is an excerpt …

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The Pros and Cons of Being Big


The food sector has faced a barrage of issues recently. Much of it is summarized in this report launched recently by Oxfam America called “Behind the Brands”.  The report analyses the largest food companies (in the interests of full transparency many of them are BT customers) across a range of sustainability dimensions, including nutrition and obesity, environment, tracing and trust, poverty and international development.  There is a well balanced review of the report by Marc Gunther here.

But in contrast we need to consider observations I noticed by Emma Duncan of the Times.  In theUK, and I am sure …

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Going Mainstream: Are Consumers Driving Sustainable Corporate Behavior?

A few months back, I did a piece on the Good Guide and how it might be helpful to consumers as they made decisions.  I certainly had fun playing with the Good Guide on my iPad at my home, but when it came time to use it in the grocery store – between scanning each item, the time it took to execute a query in the database, the fact that many items are not in the database, and then interpreting the result – I’m not certain it was worth it.

I enjoyed reading Marc Gunther’s piece on consumer behavior in …

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Sustainability Comes of Age

A couple of articles caught my attention last week. This blog post by Marc Gunther about the pros and cons of reusable shopping bags and this one in the Washington Post about the implications of the success of the Fair Trade movement.

In different ways, both indicate the need for an increasing maturity in our approach to corporate responsibility and sustainability as our programs take root and grow.    Initiatives that appear to be the right thing to do at a small scale, need to be revisited as they scale and the full implications become evident.

Marc identifies inaccuracies in the …

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Creating Shared Value – Is it Corporate Responsibility?

On Monday last week I attended an excellent roundtable organized by the World Environment Center (WEC) and Dow at the National Press Club in DC. The topic was Creating Shared Value (CSV) and the excellent keynote presentation was by Mark Kramer, one of the authors of the January 2011 paper on the topic in the Harvard Business Review.

CSV is a hot topic in the field that I gather, from this blog post by Aman Singh,  and others I have read, and was covered widely at BRC and NetImpact too. The WEC event was excellent with great speakers all around, …

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BT and Unilever Sustainability Aspirations

As I have written before in Should We Pick Our Customers, I am interested in the idea of incorporating sustainability credentials in identifying priority prospects,  and also,  in partnering with customers on their sustainability.  So I was especially excited when Unilever recently unveiled its bold sustainability plan. Marc Gunther wrote an excellent post on the plan.

BT recently won an extension to its outsourcing contract with Unilever worth around €173m (£144m).   The original contract, announced in November 2002 and worth around €1bn, was the first comprehensive, global telecoms outsource contract ever undertaken by BT and remains one of …

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