Fireside Chat: Six Weeks in Lockdown - State of the Union

Our sixth Fireside Chat provided an opportunity to review the state of the union, six weeks into lockdown and the implications for sustainability and the CRS profession.

A recent ICRS pulse survey identified three priorities for debate; the implementation of the SDGs, the future role of business in society and the role of the CRS professional. A review of the ICRS CPD framework identified the increasing importance of pursuing both positive social and environmental impact and the need to champion ethical behaviour. The promotion and development of sustainable products and services and research and analysis was seen as being less important.

The willingness to adapt life styles and work practices, a reconnection with family, community, and the environment and the demonstrated ability of business to collaborate and react quickly to threat were seen as positive foundations for a more sustainable future.

Jennie Galbraith reflected on the growing role of CRS professionals in ensuring that a wider stakeholder perspective is part of future business plans:

"This multi stakeholder approach is being driven by investors. It is clear that business will play a part in any economic recovery, although for many, the exact nature of this role is still to be determined. CRS practitioners have a role to play in establishing the corporate response and there is an opportunity to  capitalise on the changed culture to ensure future resilience."

Maggie Zhang provided a perspective from China which has been out of lockdown for a month:

"The historical focus on charity and community investment has strengthened during the pandemic.  But the pandemic has had a negative impact on foreign trade and manufacturing, compounded by travel restrictions and rising labour costs. Many supply chains have been transferred to other South East Asian countries and it’s estimated that 12,000 trading companies have closed in China since February."

Looking forward, we anticipate a wider stakeholder engagement role for CRS professionals and more focus on community investment, particularly around the SDGs, but not at the expense of the broader ESG demands of investors. We’re seeing companies rethink the working environment for employees, a move away from direct selling in retail and a rethink of selling services rather than products and a potential move to see more onshoring of supply chain activities. The challenge is how to embrace this opportunity for a more sustainable future and resilient economic growth

Our next Fireside Chat on 15 May will focus on Environmental Commitments - at risk or full steam ahead?, and will feature Robbie Epsom, Associate of Sustainability Advisory Services at WSP and ICRS Board Director. In the meantime, you can find all the resources shared by our members on our Covid-19 resource area.

If you have thoughts on how the ICRS can support you, please email info@icrs.info. We’re encouraging our members to share examples of how they’re responding to the pandemic so be sure that you’re also a member of our members-only LinkedIn Group, The Exchange Online.