ECONOMY

Corporate Social Responsibility becoming business mainstream

Four-fifths of international fund managers take the view that the sensitization of enterprises to environmental and social concerns related to their activity has positive effects on their long-term value, according to a recent research study. The report, «Investing in Socially Responsible Enterprises,» was carried out by business consultants Deloitte in collaboration with non-profit organization Corporate Social Responsibility Europe (CRS Europe) and stock market consortium Euronext. The report focused on the sectors of telecommunications, financial institutions, petroleum, natural gas and construction in nine European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. It involved interviews with 388 fund managers and analysts, and the investor relations officers (IROs) of 80 companies included in the Financial Times Europe 500 index. According to Deloitte, European markets have made important strides toward recognizing the huge significance of corporate social responsibility and the repercussions of business decisions on the environment. As a result, socially responsible investment is steadily gaining ground, becoming an additional tool for business consultants and fund managers, as they offer, on one hand, greater transparency and far-sightedness to their investment choices and analyze world investment risks on the other. Conclusions A basic conclusion of the study is that firms with social responsibility will have a strong influence on investment decisions in the next three years. «The need for integrating CSR in the daily agenda of enterprises is a reality. The results of the study are encouraging, as they clearly show the future of socially responsible investment (SRI). At the same time, they prepare the ground for the adoption of better business practices on CSR issues,» says a senior Deloitte official. Some other results of the study are as follows: – Fifty-two percent of investment advisers and analysts, and 47 percent of IROs, agree that the trend for investing in socially responsible enterprises (SRE) will soon become mainstream. – Sixty percent of fund managers note a growing interest in investing in SRE and in firms whose main business has been environmental protection in the last two years. – Sixty-nine percent of managers estimates that SRI will make considerable headway in the next two years. Already, more than half of Europe’s financial institutions offer specialized mutual funds which invest in firms related to environmental protection. – Only 4 percent of fund managers believe that the management of firms’ environmental and social risks has adverse effects on their long-term value. – Sixty-nine percent of IROs consider that decision-making based on CSR affects a firm’s reputation in the long term, while 46 percent and 36 percent think it has an impact on its growth and performance and stock market value respectively; 60 percent of them said firms have clearly improved their efforts to upgrade their social image, and 56 percent consider that a firm’s socially responsible policy is of strategic importance to its future.