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When being responsible is win-win

On 10/10/14 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

Acting responsibly is good for business - this was a theme that came through strongly at Heineken's 'Brewing a Better Future' conference last month where the company brought together a range of stakeholders and partners covering the work they do on sustainability, alcohol responsibility and community engagement resulting in some excellent discussions and ideas.

Goldman Sachs produced a report in 2007 which suggested that not only did companies who took CSR seriously do better on the stock market overall but they also performed better against their peers who were less invested in corporate responsibility.

There had been much coverage in the media and elsewhere about companies seeking to portray themselves as responsible being accused of 'greenwash' on environmental issues and often similar negative comments with regard to action on responsible retailing of alcohol or other CSR issues.

However, as well as something being good for business, it still may also be the case that the company and the people within it have a strong commitment to acting responsibly in their community and the wider world. No-one watching the short film of the 'Act for Addaction' campaign, which has raised a huge amount for the charity, could doubt that the team and staff at Heineken UK care a great deal about the cause they are supporting and the importance of recognising the harm that alcohol can do, alongside the pleasure and enjoyment it brings to the majority.

It is of course fair for companies to expect to be challenged and scrutinised on their credentials and most wouldn't expect anything less. In the same way that shareholders will hold them to account on financial performance, risk management and brand reputation, partners who they work with should rightly push to ensure that initiatives and actions are robust and worthwhile.

The FTSE4Good Index Series is intended to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices and provide robust criterion for investors and a recognised benchmark for other stakeholders wanting to assess a company’s commitment to CSR. Heineken, Marston’s, Enterprise Inns and SAB Miller are amongst the companies in our industry that are part of FTSE4Good.

Some would argue that legislation is the only way to ensure that standards are raised across the board in certain areas and that when companies focus on CSR for business reasons; they are doing so to obtain competitive advantage. However, although companies of course will want to be the first to introduce new, efficient technology, such as Heineken’s SmartDispense, or roll out new cutting edge campaigns on alcohol awareness these actions by their very nature raise the bar for everyone else and encourage others to do more.

Trade associations like the BBPA have a key role to play in profiling the work that our members do in this area and showcasing the best practice that exists all over the industry, whether in sustainability, alcohol awareness or community and charitable activity. Brewing Green, which we have published since 2010 to report on industry progress on environmental commitments, is a good example of highlighting those BBPA members leading the way on environmental sustainability and thereby encouraging others to follow suit. As I've mentioned it, we are publishing this year’s Brewing Green shortly so please send through any case studies you wish to highlight - the template is available here!

Let's celebrate companies doing the right thing and accept that responsibility and commercial success can go hand in hand.


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