The Boulder Chamber View: Collective Social Responsibility

Scott Sternberg | The Boulder Chamber View

Corporate social responsibility refers to the actions and initiatives companies take to balance their profits with their environmental and social footprints. A corporate social responsibility report not only lays out the goals of the company but also communicates its progress towards attaining those goals. Accordingly, such a report can be a valuable tool to inspire stakeholders, recruit and retain employees and illustrate community involvement. Here in Boulder, we have a high density of organizations that both choose to invest in and commit themselves to impactful practices. It is, therefore, appropriate to recognize the aggregated effects these organizations can have on our community with a different CSR lens: collective social responsibility.

Collective social responsibility, in this context, is simply the compounded effect of many companies setting similar targets, resulting in synergistic outcomes. For example, many local companies are targeting 100% renewable energy consumption within the decade. The aggregated impact of this encourages Xcel Energy to accelerate their renewable portfolio to meet customer demands. Further, water reduction programs, when summed up across a wide cross section of businesses, help address the western state’s water crisis. Finally, company-based diversity, equity and inclusion programs result in a maturing of perspectives within the community when combined as a whole.

Inherent to any corporate social responsibility program is the adoption of continual improvement philosophy. Reducing a company’s environmental impact, or diversifying its workforce and creating an inclusive culture, is the result of years of disciplined actions, with many minor milestones achieved along the way. However, as a company’s program evolves, often it is either rate limited or simply blocked by factors out of the company’s control. As a community, we need to look at ways to accelerate such programs within our local businesses to allow them to achieve their goals.

Let’s consider a couple of examples of how a little effort — aligned with business and community objectives — can go a long way.

Today’s “great recalibration” not only limits a company’s ability to find qualified workers but can also create nondiverse candidate pools. Supported by the Boulder Chamber, the Skillful Talent Training Series was adopted to focus on skills versus experience. Over time, this shift in hiring philosophy will assist local businesses with both growing and diversifying their workforces, ultimately resulting in a more culturally diverse region.

The seventh element of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan states: “Bring the community together with renewed urgency to address the climate emergency and achieve clarity on the required next steps.” One interpretation of this could be to focus on programs and policies that allow our businesses to advance their internal sustainability programs which support, and often exceed, the targets set by the city.

As single occupancy vehicle traffic is the largest greenhouse gas contributor, strategic planning and advocacy surrounding sustainable transportation serves to simultaneously advance both a company’s and our city’s objectives. For example, Boulder Transportation Connections works with employers to offer sustainable transportation options to employees. Once implemented, these programs not only improve a facility’s greenhouse gas footprint, but also have a net positive impact on the regional air quality. It’s a win-win!

There are many more examples of how relatively small actions in support of corporate social responsibility goals can have a large impact, both for an individual business and the community. The point here is that there is only one way to move the needle on both social and environmental issues: alignment. The combined results from the many large and small businesses that call Boulder home can be enormous. Recognizing that internal corporate social responsibility programs collectively are accretive to the city-wide causes is the first step. Identifying ways to allow our businesses to advance such initiatives is the next step if we are all to move into a brighter and more sustainable future.

View the whole article on The Daily Camera.

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