The World Economic Forum (WEF) has rightly chosen the theme for its annual meeting in Davos, which takes place at the beginning of January 2017. The theme could be translated as "Responsive and Responsible Leadership", raising the tone of the need for ethical and socially responsible management as a key element for both the public and private sectors in the current context. From the underlying theme, 5 fundamental aspects for 2017 emerge, which I would like to convey from a CSR/sustainability perspective.
- Building governance for sustainability. With the realization that we need a global agenda to solve the fundamental global issues, in 2017 we will see a deeper alignment of public and private policies with sustainability issues. The SDGs will more clearly start to become part of the structural agenda of some countries and regions. In this sense, we will see this alignment from the European Commission, where progress is expected in its CSR Strategy, to countries encouraged by the responsible practices required by the OECD such as Peru, Colombia or Costa Rica and even SPAIN, where we expect that once the government is formed, the National CSR Strategy should be decisively promoted. There will also be a growing trend in companies to include the SDGs in their strategy. Good governance requires transparency in the proposed objectives, as well as accountability. These aspects will continue to have an impact on the private sector, as they did last year. The entry into force of the requirements of the Non-Financial Disclosure Directive, the increase of listed companies responding positively to the recommendations of the CNMV, the regulations against tax avoidance or the strengthening of codes of conduct and compliance areas will be part of the business agenda. Of course, not everything will be good news. In 2017 we will probably witness new cases of companies unable to adapt to an environment of transparency and good governance that will once again lead to cases with negative implications for all their stakeholders (employees, shareholders, management, suppliers, environment, etc.). These cases should further reaffirm the need for responsible leadership and management. There will also be uncertainty as to how the arrival of Donald Trump to the US presidency on January 20 will play out. What will happen, for example, to the recent national plan for responsible business conduct?
- Future of employment and jobs with a future. The fourth industrial revolution has begun and many dilemmas are being triggered. The need, for example, to create jobs in the face of the speed of robotization in many sectors requires a responsible approach. The collaboration of business, government and civil society is essential both to increase youth employment and to provide employability to professionals who need to adapt. Unemployment reduction figures are encouraging and we expect them to fall further this year. But they have to coexist with the adaptation also to measures to promote equality, diversity management, conciliation and, in short, the quality of employment if we want better companies and organizations. We will need to boost STEM skills and vocations, as well as enhance the training of CSR experts who cannot be left out of the evolution of current trends or increase their voice in new industries such as cybersecurity, among others.
- In Search of Growth? In 2017, growth will not be easy. Leaving for another article the discussion on what is the best way to grow, at what pace or following what metrics, what is certain is that 2017 will continue to consolidate a message linked to Sustainability as a fundamental element for competitiveness in the 21st century. Perhaps the carrot could be a more influential strategy than the stick this year?
- A change of climate. Once the Paris Agreement was ratified, it was time for positions and action. We will see more commitments regarding countries at the next Climate Summit in Bonn (again awaiting progress in the US) or the Climate Change Law in Spain. Leading companies will accelerate their strategies and commitments and will follow progress on increasing transparency or establishing internal carbon pricing. The speed of these measures and the involvement of a second wave of companies and citizens through their consumption decisions will continue to increase, but will need further stimulus.
- Leaving no one behind. Spain is considering presenting its candidacy to the Human Rights Council this year, an excellent opportunity to finally approve the national strategy for Business and Human Rights. From a business perspective, the management and measurement of social impact will increase in importance. Elements of responsible management in the supply chain, development of corporate volunteering and more collaboration with NGOs will be relevant issues.
From Forética we wish 2017 to be a good year for CSR/Sustainability and I encourage everyone to join in and take decisive action. Happy 2017!