Sunday, Aug 14, 2022
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CSR For The Digital Age

Bottomline isn’t enough as responsibility blurs the line between firms and society

CSR For The Digital Age CSR For The Digital Age

The current model of economic growth has had serious consequences for the environment, such as climate change, pollution, water security, deforestation, ocean acidification and more frequent natural disasters. Growth has also been unequal. While the wealthiest people, the biggest companies and corporate leaders have unparalleled wealth, the poorest still struggle for food. Moreover, the Edelman Trust Barometer that measures consumers’ trust in companies has hit an all-time low. This seems surprising as we seem to be far more connected than at any other time in human history­—three-quarters of the world’s population uses mobile phones and about half has internet access. An estimated 21 billion dev­ices will be on the Internet of Things by 2020. With technological advances, knowledge can be a great advantage, but those who don’t have the ability to access it can be at a significant disadvantage. In the future, the internet will be everywhere. The digitally disadvantaged, either because of a disability, language issues or literacy may face hugely disproportionate challenges. There are also the challenges of partial information, fake news, search engines favouring certain types of results and so on. Partial, denied or incorrect access to information is giving rise to inequality and distrust.

We need a plan to include those who will be left out just as we need to quickly reverse the damage done to the environment. Governments and regulators the world over are mandating corporate disclosures on CSR and sustainability. Rules have been made to protect natural res­ources, clean up air and water, and a new Companies Act asks the corporate sector to invest 2 per cent of their net profits in certain areas as part of CSR. But these frameworks focusing on people and the planet don’t account for the main activity of tod­ay’s value creation the digital world rests on­—new business models around data, algorithms and digital disruption.

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