The state of responsible business: global corporate response to environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges

The state of responsible business: global corporate response to environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges

Trends in corporate responsibility

This report provides an overview on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts of corporations. Data is presented by country/region and contextual analysis is provided. Issues covered include corporate governance, equal opportunities, human rights, supply chain labour standards, environmental responsibility and community involvement. In addition, the report also addresses topics including climate change. HIV and AIDS and responsible business practices in emerging markets.

The main findings of the study include:

  • over the past 25 years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved from a mainly philanthropic activity to a more mainstream approach that integrates responsible business principles into core business activities
  • responsible business practices are increasingly being adopted by companies worldwide though there are significant differences between regions
  • European companies have well developed responsible business practices across a broad range of issues. This is due to a sophisticated responsible investment market, NGO pressure and a strong regulatory environment
  • Japanese companies demonstrate strong performance on environmental issues, although need to make progress on other areas to match European levels
  • beyond a core of companies which have adopted responsible business practices, North American companies significantly lag behind their European counterparts across all the areas researched
  • large companies are more likely to adopt responsible business practices than smaller companies
  • continued growth in responsible investment especially amongst ‘mainstream’ investors is expected to drive greater corporate take up of and reporting on these issues

The report projects that level of responsible business will continue to grow around the world, including greater up-take in Asia. The success of initiatives and schemes such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) are a strong indicator that companies are increasing their disclosure of ESG practices and strategies.

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