by Geraldine Gatehouse | August 19, 2012
A corporate social responsibility (CSR) event in the meetings, events and incentive travel industry is often regarded as a stand-alone component of a conference or meeting, although some are considered to be a part of a client’s overall corporate strategy. What many industry players may not realize —outside of this specialized arena — is that CSR and sustainability aren’t just good for society but that they make good business practice. Consider these facts from social branding expert Simon Mainwaring’s We First: How brands and consumers use social media to build a better world (2011): 

Sixty-one percent of consumers have sought out a brand that supports a good cause, even if it was not the cheapest brand. 
Sixty-four percent of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a good cause, up from 52 percent in 2010.
Fifty-six percent of consumers believe that the interests of society and the interests of businesses should have equal weight in business decisions. 
Sixty-seven percent of consumers would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. 
Eighty-three percent of consumers are willing to change their consumption habits if it can help make tomorrow’s world a better place to live. 

These figures are important indicators of what will be expected from the meetings industry as we move forward. The importance of CSR and sustainable practices will only grow. What follows are links to recently published articles on CSR, sustainability, and what companies are doing about it.

Target Keeps CSR on Target
Stakeholders are important drivers in influencing companies to change their ways of doing business and, as Aman Singh, editorial director of, points out in her Q&A with Tim Baer, Target executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, Target is one such company that is doing just that. “Our commitment to our guest extends far beyond our stores, and we believe truly great service includes supporting the communities where we live and work,” says Baer. “In business, Target collaborates and innovates to drive results. Key to that collaboration is transparency when it comes to measuring and reporting progress toward goals, allowing us to grow as a company.” 

Keeping Up With Demand
There’s increasing demand from consumers and local government for businesses to apply CSR and sustainability strategies, too. According to Ryan Huang, Deputy Editor of, “Businesses' growing concerns over their public profile and the need to meet CSR obligations mean vendors and suppliers are increasingly under pressure to be eco-friendly to stay competitive.” 

In his article, Huang cites an example that includes Apple. In July, Apple, bowing to pressure from losing key business, rejoined the Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) green technology standard, just days after initially withdrawing from it.

The about-turn was apparently driven by the loss of potential business, Huang points out. Following Apple’s withdrawal from EPEAT, the City of San Francisco became the first public agency to cancel its Apple purchases because EPEAT certification was a requirement for its equipment procurement.

Huang notes that many corporations like Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require that their computers be purchased from EPEAT-certified sources, while the U.S. government has a 95-percent certified purchase rate. 

According to a 2010 EPEAT survey, 222 out of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their information technology departments to give preference to EPEAT certified computers. Approximately 70 of those schools required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases. 

For Apple, this represents significant business and it’s likely other companies will face the same scrutiny. The increasing requirement for companies to be held to a recognized sustainability standard means that companies not in compliance will find it a challenge to remain competitive. 

CSR Done Right
The details of this next example of CSR done right are taken from a blog which is part of a series organized by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction around the London 2012 Olympics. 

Caroline Avakian, communications director and United Nations representative at Trickle Up, shines a light on a running shoe company with a very involved and hands-on approach to its CSR strategy. Newton Running, a family-operated running shoe company, had contacted Trickle Up, a U.S. organization working with the extremely poor and vulnerable, with the idea of making a donation from each pair of shoes sold. Instead of asking for advertising or finding out how they could promote their partnership, the company wanted to travel with Trickle Up to the places where it operated so they could better understand its mission. They wanted their staff and customers to learn about the conditions of poverty and what could be done to give back. 

In 2009, the company’s owners traveled with the Trickle Up team to remote villages in Guatemala to meet some of the people the organization served and to see the program first-hand. In the four years since Newton Running has become involved, it has contributed $68,000 to Trickle Up; it spreads the word about poverty and has just started on a major fund-raising campaign.

A successful CSR partnership involves alignment between the for-profit and the nonprofit and the passion to make a difference through a philosophy of giving for the right reasons. 

There are many ways to give back while keeping in mind the core commitment of the company engaged in the giving. Keeping a company profitable and its stakeholders happy gives it the license to pursue a give back policy and, keeping in mind the data at the beginning of the column, to thrive and grow.

So, ask yourself this: What is your company doing as part of its CSR strategy? You are invited to send in your stories to [email protected], which will form part of a future column. I look forward to hearing from you.

CSR quote of the month: "I believe it to be perfectly possible for an individual to adopt the way of life of the future … without having to wait for others to do so." — Mohandas (Mahatma) K. Gandhi

Geraldine Gatehouse is an independent incentive and event planner, freelance writer, speaker, and instructor, with a passionate belief in the value and potential global impact of CSR. She is based in Southern California, is 2012/2013 Director of Fundraising & Strategic Sponsorship for the MPI Southern California Chapter, a Site Classic 2012 committee member, a 2012 Site Southern California Board Advisor and a member of the IMEX America team. She can be reached at [email protected] or via her website, Geraldine Gatehouse, and at LinkedIn. Her Twitter handles are @ggbrit and @IMEXGeraldine