CSR: Will The Private Sector Pass the Test?

Despite the urban/rural divide that political winds have carried with recent events in Great Britain, the United States and other countries, and potential changes to current environmental and social-economic structures, companies have a choice to make: Will they increase their advocacy and investment in Purpose (CSR, social and environmental issues), or will they take advantage of reduced regulation and pressure and deprioritize their responsibilities to the environment and society?

I vote for the former, and to take it one step further, I believe that most companies will not only continue to invest in causes important to them, but many will double down on investing in urban development and infrastructure, climate change (and all related aspects) and economic inclusion.

  • Companies will continue to focus on urban investment to attract consumers/employees both in developed and developing countries. Urban areas are inherently diverse and innovation is born from looking at and considering different points of view. Innovation (and fast) is the only way to win in today’s world. This is not going away.
  • However, with urbanization comes pressure and strain on resources that exceed what governments can and/or want to do. Hence, there will be increased expectations for companies to be a part of the solution whether it be water and sanitation, energy, education, women empowerment and others. This is not going away.
  • Millennials — a powerful demographic — are urban in their sensibilities. They are more tolerant, want to experience life over having possessions, take high-tech for granted and force innovation in companies and society. They are also more strident in their views of the role companies play in protecting the environment and society, and social media has allowed them to be hyper-vigilant.   They are not going away.
  • Gen Z — a growing demographic — are a more intense version of the Millennials. They are not going away.
  • The push among rural populations to bring back jobs and economic growth — possibly at the expense of the environment and society. Companies will need to self-regulate and not abandon the strides they have made in reducing their environmental footprint because they are saving money and gaining favor with consumers and employees. It makes no sense for this to go away.
  • In service to urbanization, forward-looking companies will need to invest in rural innovation to bring a sense of ‘urban lite’ to these areas in a more sustainable manner in order to create economic inclusion…which means growth for everyone. This is a clear way to win in the marketplace.

This test may be one of the most critical challenges for the private sector in this new reality, and only time will tell if it will pass.

A version of this article can be found on MediaPost.