Top 10 CSR Research Findings of 2011

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Here is a list of 2011’s most popular business sustainability Research Insights, as determined by the number of downloads. Taken from top management journals, these key insights provide the sound advice you need to elevate your sustainability strategies and initiatives for 2012. If you haven’t read them yet, read them now.

The NBS Knowledge Centre includes more than 100 Research Insights, each identifying key findings and takeaways from a leading academic research study focused on some aspect of sustainability.

1. Innovation and employees drive profits

Jordi Surroca (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) and colleagues find that innovating and empowering employees can lead to improvements in both financial and corporate responsibility performance of firms. What sorts of initiatives lead to these payoffs? The authors suggest product and process improvements that reduce pollution and human resource policies that treat employees fairly. Read more.

2. Market CSR internally to retain top talent

CSR initiatives can be a powerful way to retain top talent. But the details and extent of the initiatives must be communicated clearly and consistently. C.B. Bhattacharya (European School of Management) and colleagues found that only 37 percent of employees were even aware of their firm’s activities. Involve your employees in CSR programs and develop programs that meet their needs if you want to maximize your CSR benefits. Read more.

3. CSR can drive financial performance.

Francesco Perrini (University of Bocconi) and colleagues studied 30 years of research to determine the specific process by which CSR leads to increased revenue and reduced costs. These processes include: CSR reporting practices that strengthen the organization, CSR enhancement of human resource management, and CSR’s contribution to consumer loyalty and satisfaction. Read more.

4. The market rewards and punishes sustainability news.

Are you worried that your CSR initiatives will not pay off immediately – or at all? Brian Jacobs (Michigan State University) and colleagues found that the market rewards announcements of corporate philanthropy or ISO 14001 certification. But the market punishes announcements of voluntary emissions reductions and it doesn’t react at all to most other types of CSR announcements. Read more.

5. Bounce back with good stakeholder relations.

Jaepil Choi (Singapore Management University) and Heli Wang (Hong Kong University) found that when a firm performs well, good stakeholder relations help them ride the wave longer. More importantly, when companies suffer financially, relationships with stakeholders help them bounce back more quickly. But this takes advance planning –waiting until a crisis to build bridges won’t provide the same resilience. Read more.

6. Prioritize your sustainability initiatives.

Julian Marshall (University of Minnesota) and Michael Toffel (Harvard Business School) have developed a practical framework decision-makers can harness to rank the importance of potential CSR initiatives. This hierarchy ranges from human survival at the highest level to values and aesthetic preferences at the lowest level, helping managers and policy-makers identify the most pertinent sustainability activities to pursue. Read more.

7. Being included – or excluded – from social indices impacts your share price.

Jonathan Doh (Villanova University) and colleagues found that when a company is removed from a social index like KLD, its stock can lose substantially on average, more than 1.2 percent of its value or $4 million. However, they also discovered a good CSR reputation builds trust and respect, so these firms don’t get jostled if they’re added or deleted from a list. Read more.

8. “Green” doesn’t always mean good.

Michael Luchs (College of William and Mary) and colleagues discovered consumers value sustainability when looking for gentle products like baby shampoo. But, sustainability can be detrimental when seeking tough products such as athletic shoes or trucks. Consumers link more sustainable products with gentle attributes. So, when marketing “tough” products like car shampoo, companies should explicitly paint green products as “strong” and associate the products with an established brand name. Read more.

9. Functionality trumps ethics.

Pat Auger (University of Melbourne), Tim Devinney (University of Technology, Sydney) and colleagues found that socially responsible product features affects a person’s buying intentions but that most consumers will not trade off functionality. And, some ethical features may be more important than others; in the study, avoiding child labour was more important to consumers than employee working conditions and animal testing was more important than using animal by-products. Read more.

10. Employees who give are more loyal.

Adam Grant (Wharton Business School) and colleagues show helping others makes employees more committed to your company. To make this work for you, explain them how they can give time or money to corporate programs. Show that the programs in place are credible and highlight company community investment contributions. Read more.

See last year’s Top 10