Big business, big responsibilities provides insider view on business` role in tackling sustainability challenges

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Big Business, Big Responsibilities (Palgrave Macmillan 2010)-a new book coauthored by Dunstan Allison Hope of BSR, Andy Wales of SABMiller, and Matthew Gorman of BAA Ltd-challenges popular perceptions about the role of global business in solving the world's greatest problems, arguing that companies can take the lead in solving poverty, addressing climate change, and protecting human rights. 'Businesses have a culture that encourages change, innovation, and rapid decision-making, and those are the exact same characteristics that are needed to tackle sustainability challenges,' said Hope, Managing Director at BSR. With more than 30 years of combined experience leading change toward sustainability in industries as diverse as consumer goods, technology, and transportation, the authors share the inside track on why some of the world's best-known brands are addressing global challenges as a core part of their business strategy. 'Addressing big challenges such as water scarcity and climate change must be done as part of their core strategy,' said Wales, Global Head of Sustainable Development, SABMiller. 'Business success ultimately depends on healthy, thriving communities and the protection of the scarce environmental resources we all share.' However, the authors maintain that there is more work to be done to advance the sustainability agenda. The book outlines their five main conclusions:

  • Shared risks mean shared responsibilities. Big business must understand the real risks posed by challenges such as climate change and water scarcity. Only by sharing the responsibility of addressing these issues will business succeed in the long term.
  • Shared risks are best addressed through collaboration. By working with others in their industries and value chains, and in governments and civil society, business will help solve these shared challenges sooner.
  • Public trust is more important than ever. Public disclosure of sustainability performance should be as regular and comparable as financial disclosure.
  • New regulations and fiscal incentives are required to support business activities for sustainability. Leading companies should play a constructive role in shaping new legislation that will promote real, systemic change on issues such as climate change.
  • Successful companies will view sustainability as an opportunity for innovation, not as a risk to be mitigated. Global sustainability challenges can be used to drive the next generation of innovation and develop the successful products of tomorrow.

'The big responsibilities of business are clear: Business must protect the environmental systems they depend on, build consumer trust, and create new, sustainable markets to ensure long-term success,' said Gorman, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Environment at BAA Ltd. Visit www.bigresponsibilities.org for more information about the book, complete author bios, and the latest author blogs. Endorsements for Big Business, Big Responsibilities '[The authors] have written a book that captures beautifully the realistic idealism that is at the heart of the modern sustainability movement. Their book is a great guide to the ways that companies are making a difference in the world while also enhancing their competitiveness.' -Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR 'Optimistic, yet grounded in the day-to-day realities of running a business, the authors offer a leadership agenda for the 21st century corporation and for the consumers, regulators, activists, executives, and, above all, employees, who are helping drive this agenda forward.' -Jane Nelson, Director, Corporate Responsibility Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School 'This unusual book highlights and humanizes the challenges facing those who wish to effect social progress from within a system rather than outside of it. It provides a useful and timely map through the distrust and conflict that can too easily arise where capitalism and activism meet.' -Jonathan Zittrain, Professor, Harvard Law School, and author, The Future of the Internet-And How to Stop It 'This is a book that many of us have been waiting for! Written by three 'insiders,' it describes how social pressures are influencing corporate behavior. It will change, for the better, both the tone and substance of debates over corporate social responsibility.' -Ethan B. Kapstein, Chair in Political Economy, INSEAD Business School 'A new generation of leaders give the inside story on how to become a sustainability-responsible leader. Indispensable.' -Sara Parkin, Founder Director, Forum for the Future About BSR A leader in corporate responsibility since 1992, BSR works with its global network of more than 250 member companies to develop sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research, and cross-sector collaboration. With offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, BSR uses its expertise in the environment, human rights, economic development, and governance and accountability to guide global companies toward creating a just and sustainable world. Visit www.bsr.org for more information.

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