Business welcomes Minister's US study of corporate social role

Tuesday 9 March 2010, 2:32PM
By New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development

The Minister of Social Development’s plan to make a five week study of corporate social responsibility in the United States is welcomed by business leaders working in the field.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says businesses have a major interest in their social role and social policy as employers and taxpayers. It I encouraging that a Minister has recognised the potential for business to become more engaged in improving the social environment.

The Business Council’s 55 member companies – who employ more than 80,000 people - provide corporate social responsibility leadership, engaging in initiatives ranging from special e-learning programmes for schools, to trusts to provide new skills training for an entire community.

Other activities involve foundations and trusts backing community projects, and initiatives providing work experience for school students, efforts to build better schools partnerships with business, and advocacy for social improvements arising from major policy work programmes. These include initiatives to improve the performance of a million of the country’s 1.6 million poorly insulated homes and improve the allocation and quality of freshwater.

The Business Council will later this year conclude a two-year research project on the social role of business in New Zealand. It aims to identify tools for business to assess and improve the impact of their social responsibility efforts.

The project is also aims to produce specific recommendations on new ways in which business, government and the social services sector can work more effectively.

The Business Council’s research project manager, Heather Stonyer, says evidence suggests the most successful solutions to social problems are those that engage non-profit, business and Government agencies in partnerships – where each concentrates on what it does best.

“Businesses have a major stake in, and responsibility to the societies in which they operate. As resource shortages and climate issues become more acute, the role business plays must also change. We not only need to make profits to be sustainable, but can enhance those by also looking after the environment and people,” Ms Stonyer says.

“It’s encouraging that a Minister will take five weeks to make an in-depth study into how we can best harness corporate influence to improve the society we live in.”

The Minister’s study tour is due to start in October. The Business Council expects to publish in findings on business’ social role by the end of this year.