We have been learning throughout the program about the ways businesses can contribute to human flourishing both socially and environmentally. This week, we had the pleasure of hearing from two pioneers who do just that, everyday, at REI through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. REI is known for their co-op model (customers are members and take part in decision-making) and desire to get people in the great outdoors, but, they are also continually improving upon their internal sustainability and their social impact throughout their operations . Although many may question the role that business can play in making social change, Kirk Myers commented that “business moves a lot faster than politics.” This interaction continually affirmed what we had been learning in the program and allowed us to ask hard questions about the true impact that CSR has within a corporation.
From my personal perspective, I see a promising future for CSR. Although these departments may not have been originally created to holistically address societal issues, there is continued innovation in this field as companies devote resources to measure their impact and invest in improvements. Through these processes, big name companies like REI are creating the path for other companies to follow. For example, the HIGG Index developed by Nike, is an internal tool that can be used within a wide variety of companies to assess the sustainability of its operations and effectively identify potential areas of improvement.
It is exciting to hear about the growing possibilities within CSR to truly analyze the sustainability of operations within a company including the materials used, the way employees are treated and ways to optimize one’s supply chain to both increase efficiency and decrease one’s carbon footprint.
The road to corporate social impact will continue to evolve, but as professionals being trained in this mind set, we are prepared to enter our respective fields to be the voice for sustainable change. In a way that influences people, planet and profit.