businesses com

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Peter Bakker, President and CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development & John Elkington, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder, Volans


  • Companies which embrace Corporate Social Reasonability (CSR) activities have been proven to have higher profitability and employee loyalty but this is no longer enough for the everyday consumer;
  • Global protests against racial injustice have brought to the fore what company executives are doing in terms of recruiting, equal pay and social equality;
  • Consumers are looking for more than CSR, they are looking for Corporate Social Justice in all areas.

It is basic human nature to want less bad things, and more good things. The recent turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with an unsteady global economy and a wakeup call on social justice, recent events have shaken many of us to our core. Meanwhile, achieving systemic social change is a growing concern for governments, businesses and other insitutions, although to date—with few exceptions—efforts to scale solutions to meet social, environmental and governance challenges have not had the desired impact.

Investors, stakeholders and customers want to see more good things, not just strategy tools and marketing campaigns aimed and generating profits. It’s time for companies and academia and others to take a stand on justice for all.

Former President Bill Clinton specifically expressed the challenge of scale in reviewing school reform initiatives during his presidency when he said, “Nearly every problem has been solved by someone somewhere. The frustration is that we can’t seem to replicate [those solutions] anywhere else”.

Meanwhile, Corporate Social Justice, as Lily Zheng writes in the Harvard Business Review, is “a reframing of CSR that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society.” Therefore, companies and managers that take into account social justice are not only addressing inclusion and equality but are actively shaping the future for millions of people around the world.

Here’s how visionary companies are reacting:

Standing firm

Companies must bring together different stakeholders and be open and factual about unmet targets and failures on justice and inclusion. Set goals on what will bring the business and communities together and draft achievable goals.

Meanwhile, education on the importance of social justice and its relevance to business models is more important than ever. Corporations have an opportunity to close the gap on these inequities by creating just supply chains and adopting equal hiring strategies.

For example, hundreds of US based companies have signed a We Are All Human, a promise to retain, train and celebrate Latinx in the workplace.

Look at the numbers

In order to reach goals on social justice in the workplace, it’s important to understand the numbers behind racial and social inequality.

To fully grasp how ingrained these issues are, it is crucial to understand the current state of our cities, and grasp the important role world leaders will play in reseting the economy in a just way. And if the business world is able to support this goal, it will find it is rewarded by its customer base.

Sony, for example, recently announced a pledge to provide financial support to organizations dedicated to racial justice and reform, while building and expanding the company’s internal diversity and inclusion programme which promises to close the gap on equal pay.

A start-up called FinLit Workshop is working with companies to teach basic financial literacy as a perk so employees are equipped with the knowledge the need to choose credit cards, pay bills online, find a mortgage and make smart investments. These tools will empower individuals and communities.

TV streaming networks like Netflix and Hulu, meanwhile, have pulled certain programmes as they strive to do better in educating viewers on social matters and inclusion.

Build solid CSR

As COVID-19 places an extraordinary amount of pressure on households and small businesses around the world, many companies are giving-back. Some are committing to virtual volunteering, such as Accenture, and others like Shaper Hands are supporting school partnerships or volunteering to help elderly people with groceries.

More information on how companies are embracing this CSR shift can be found here.

Celebrate!

In the shadow of the pandemic, we tend to be more introspective and mindful of our past behaviour. However, it’s just as important to celebrate how far we’ve come and where we are today. It’s critical to celebrate the local heroes, the positive minds and the driven generation that wants to live to see a just world.

In the end, the worst possible response is further division, narrow lines of thinking and the search for simple solutions. When we are not hungry for justice, it’s usually because we are too full of privilege. We must all do everything we can to make sure there are more of the good things – for everyone.