Corporate Responsibility in the Government World
I was recently asked to write a guest post for CEIL. If you are unfamiliar with the organization, CEIL is an independent organization designed to educate and share information with government and military professionals charged with identifying buying green goods and services. It might seem a bit odd, my writing for a government organization blog as a representative of a UK based telecom company, but I see a lot of overlap within government and corporate. Below is my guest post for the readers of CSR Perspective.
The central question asked of CR practitioners is “how far should a corporation go to ‘do good’ in society?” Or put another way, what, in addition to delivering a profit and following the law, should a responsible company do? The answer to this question has three parts, which I call the three overlaps between the private sector and governments.
It doesn’t take much reflection to identify the many and significant responsibility overlaps between the private sector and government. The principles of good corporate responsibility are totally aligned with good management and sustainable organizations; transparency, materiality and ethics for example. When we focus on corporate sustainability as it pertains to environmental sustainability, we quickly find that cost savings and corporate responsibility can go hand-in-hand. With that said, let’s look at the three overlaps I previously mentioned.
1 – What is a Green Product?
One question that I frequently come across from both the public and private sectors is how to assess whether a potential vendor is green. The energy efficiency of a company’s operations (the company’s ‘direct’ impact) is important, but that is only the beginning of what we need to look at. A green company also pays great attention to the footprint that its products and services impose on its customers by their design and consumption. I think of this as the ‘indirect’ dimension of sustainability.
2 – Responding to Needs
Just as government responds to the people, a green company also considers how the need for society to go green changes the marketplace. For example, in the information communication technology (ICT) sector, there are many opportunities to use IT and telecommunications to reduce the broader footprint of society. This is the “enabled” dimension of sustainability – using teleconferencing in place of travel is one of the best-known examples. In the ICT sector the potential for reducing energy usage and carbon emissions through ‘enabled’ savings is at least five times greater than the direct and indirect impact of the sector as a whole (detailed in SMART 2020 report).
3 – Guiding the Public Discussion
Lastly, what does a company’s communications – PR, advertising and lobbying say about it? Companies are experts at branding and can have a significant impact through their communications. I think of this as the ‘inform and influence’ dimension of sustainability, and it is something the public and private sectors must both do to create meaningful environmental change.
Whether you are in the public or private sector, I encourage you to use these dimensions when assessing whether potential vendors are truly green. They will help you determine the extent to which they align with your organization’s sustainability goals.