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The future of corporate social responsibility

More social start-ups and a greater focus on sustainability from the business community are needed in the coming decades. These perspectives were raised in a wide-ranging discussion by a panel of experts working in corporate social responsibility as they spoke to 80 alumni at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, as part of our professional networking event series. The lively debate between the panellists and alumni in London on 2 March covered topics such as responsible leadership, sustainability, and the role of NGOs and government.

The alumni audience – those currently working in corporate social responsibility and others interested in pursuing a career in this area – was invited to reflect on and participate in the discussion, as well as challenge the views of the panel. The importance of sustainability and strategies for social responsibility were highlighted by reference to the world’s population increasing by two billion people by 2050. Businesses and institutions need to address these challenges to survive in the twenty-first century.

One alumnus advocated for CEOs to spend a year on a farm to learn more about sustainability and environmental impact with a different lens, while another discussed the impact of developing countries emulating the consumer habits of developed nations and how this would put tremendous strain on the planet’s resources. But everyone in the audience agreed that leadership is at the core of understanding how to navigate the complex global problems at the heart of corporate social responsibility in the coming decades.

The debate was chaired by Jane Corbett (St Antony’s), Senior Programme Manager at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. She was joined on the panel by Ruth Girardet (St Anne’s), an advisor on business ethics, corporate responsibility, and fundraising; Brendan May (Ballliol), Chairman and Founder of Robertsbridge, an international sustainability consultancy; Charles O’Malley (Oriel), founder of the Responsible Leadership Forum (RLF); and Dominic Vergine (Wadham), Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility for ARM Holdings.

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