Saving the planet? Who cares...

Most businesses introduce CSR policies to make themselves look good, not to save the planet...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

That’s the conclusion of a new report by accountant Grant Thornton, which has been talking to businesses about why they bring in ethically responsible practices. More than half said they did it to attract or retain staff, while 48% said it was to improve public perception of their brand – but only 30% gave two figs about saving the planet. In the gas-guzzling US, this proportion was even lower – a mere 21%.

In today’s straitened times, it’s perhaps not surprising that businesses are more concerned about staying in profit and hiring good people than they are about looking after the environment – particularly since we’re constantly being told about the shortage of skilled workers in the UK.

On the other hand, the good news is that CSR policies can be good for the bottom line as well as the social conscience: 52% of respondents said they introduced these practices as a way to cut costs. So as Grant Thornton’s Alysoun Stewart says: ‘Such measures are good for business as well as good for the planet’.

Most businesses claimed that government intervention was not a significant reason behind their CSR policies. Then again, 83% said they’d improved their waste management in the last year – thanks largely to the threat of government penalties. So we reckon this might be a load of old rubbish.

Still, we’ve got a long way to go – in China, three-quarters of businesses incorporate their CSR policies into a written document, compared to just 49% of UK companies. Although that’s not to say they’re actually doing anything with these policies in practice, of course. Perhaps with the Olympics looming they’ve just been spending a lot of money on their PR - and then using the results as kindling for their hundreds of coal-fired power stations...

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