“Most Canadian Private Companies Not Embracing CSR” PwC Survey

Apr 29, 2011 | Corporate Member News

Social responsibility, sustainability low priorities for Canadian business owners  

Without pressure from shareholders and government regulations, the majority of Canadian private companies have placed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) low on their business priority list unlike their public counterparts. In fact, about half (48%) of Canadian private companies don’t have a CSR plan in place, according to a new PwC report.  

The survey found only 21% of respondents currently have a CSR plan aligned to the business goals and 29% plan to have one in the next three to five years. This is largely because the majority of Canadian private companies view it as a “nice-to-have” rather than a priority (53%).  However, in an era of greater regulation for environmental and social responsibility practices, this could spell trouble for private companies who lag on CSR. Moreover, these companies are missing out on opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract a growing number of social and eco-conscious employees and consumers.  

“Many of these issues that are currently being dealt with on a voluntary basis could very well be regulated in the future,” says Mel Wilson, associate partner, Sustainable Solutions Group, PwC. “Companies would be wise to start operating as if there were regulations already in place, so they’ll be in a better position when those regulations actually come along.”

CSR can be a competitive advantage for businesses, but the study revealed that only 30% of respondents saw it as such. And despite the fact that a commitment to CSR can be a draw in attracting top talent, none of the respondents who had CSR plans in place were communicating their plans in their recruitment initiatives.  

“Embedding CSR into a business is a good way to stay ahead of competitors and attract talented recruits, however, many businesses may not fully understand these benefits or know how to start,” says Wilson.

Private companies may be even more inclined to adopt CSR plans if they understood the opportunities they may be missing out on. Many private companies, for instance, operate in the middle of the supply chain, selling services and goods to large multi-nationals. Increasingly, multinationals are becoming more vigilant in eliminating vendors in their supply chain that are not aligned with their risk tolerance or approach to CSR.

“This means private companies have to meet the CSR needs of the end-buyers in order to compete,” says Wilson. “In this new business environment where social and environmental issues are front and centre, private companies should get ahead of the curve or risk being left behind from a competitive standpoint.”

Wilson recommends the following steps to creating a socially responsible and sustainable business:  

Create a longer-term vision. Senior management has to articulate what CSR means to their organization. There has to be a dialogue inside the organization between management, the board of directors and employees, and extended externally to stakeholders.

“What is the organization going to look like in 10 years as opposed to six months from now?” says Wilson.

Identify what the impacts of your company’s operations are on the environment and on people.

“Assess those impacts from the standpoint of whether you can improve upon them to be environmentally efficient,” says Wilson. “The financial equivalent would be looking at the organization to see if you can be more efficient.”

Measure CSR performance in a quantitative way as much as possible. The study found the majority of private company respondents (80%) with CSR plans in place track their progress.

“As long as sustainability is viewed as a qualitative, feel good concept, it allows companies to get away with a lot. They need to move into a set of performance indicators that are of a quantitative nature,” says Wilson.  

Communicate that performance to your key stakeholders. This includes shareholders, customers, employees, potential recruits and the communities where you operate.  

The PwC Pulse Survey on CSR polled 82 private Canadian companies. For the full report, click here.  

Additional Links:  

As I See It – R.J. McCarthy – John Kelleher, President and CEO of Canadian school uniform retailer, R.J. McCarthy, discusses the company’s aggressive CSR strategy and explains why he feels their proactive approach is creating a competitive advantage in an industry where many of his competitors remain late-adopters.  

Business case for sustainability – Regardless of your company size or industry, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability are issues that will have an impact on the future of your business. Mel Wilson, associate partner, Sustainable Business Solutions, PwC, discusses the benefits of being proactive, as well as steps companies can take to implement a sustainability strategy.  

About Private Company Services (PCS)  

More than 65% of PwC Canada’s clients are private companies, ranging from high net worth individuals to owner-managed family businesses and large, professionally-managed businesses. PwC’s Private Company Services (PCS) group is a dedicated team of business advisors who help private company owners resolve day-to-day business issues and achieve long-term success. PCS offers the perspective of a third party with professional industry knowledge, business consulting, tax and accounting expertise.  

For more information about PwC’s Private Company Services, please visit www.pwc.com/ca/private  

PwC Firm Description  

PwC firms provide industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to enhance value for their clients. More than 161,000 people in 154 countries in firms across the PwC network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice. See http://www.pwc.com/ for more information. In Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (www.pwc.com/ca) and its related entities have more than 5,300 partners and staff in offices across the country.  

“PwC” is the brand under which member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL) operate and provide services. Together, these firms form the PwC network. Each firm in the network is a separate legal entity and does not act as agent of PwCIL or any other member firm. PwCIL does not provide any services to clients. PwCIL is not responsible or liable for the acts or omissions of any of its member firms nor can it control the exercise of their professional judgment or bind them in any way.  

Note to Editors: PwC has changed its name from PricewaterhouseCoopers to PwC in the fall of 2010. ‘PwC’ is written in text with a capital ‘P’ and capital ‘C’. Only when you use the PwC logo is the name represented in lower case.  

“PwC” refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, which is a member firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each member firm of which is a separate legal entity.  

For further information:

Contact       Jessica Draker, PwC
Tel: 613 755 8706
email: [email protected] 

David Rowney, PwC
Tel: 416 365 8858
email: [email protected] 

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