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Early this year, at the Global Reporting Initiative’s official launch in North America, Director of the Conference Board’s Center for Sustainability David Vidal asked a room full of senior CSR and sustainability executives:

What are the top three reasons for your company’s reluctance to embrace sustainability—and adopt sustainability reporting?

Now, as I prepare my keynote presentation for the Center’s annual summit next week on Innovation, Sustainability & Social Media, the answers to David’s question six months ago remind me of how quickly some businesses — and the sustainability space — are evolving.

Here’s what I wrote then on Vault’s CSR blog:


The responses that came from an audience representing the glitterati of the corporate social responsibility world might surprise.

Keep in mind that a majority of them (I’m almost tempted to say all) don’t need another lecture on the business case for CSR or sustainability, are active advocates, and represent companies that–for a multitude of reasons–recognize the link to their bottom lines.

What these responses point to, however, is the continued sense of reluctance across senior leadership toward combining the social and environmental with corporate. The path to effective CSR isn’t a linear process by any means and these responses should help those who continue to struggle with mental and ideological barriers within their companies.

Because knowing the challenge is half the battle.

As you go through these, make an elementary checklist. Which of these sound familiar? How did you tackle them? Do any seem/remain insurmountable in the current corporate reality of thrift and inflexibility? Share your perspectives by leaving a comment or connecting with me @AmanSinghCSR.

And, without further ado, and in no particular order:

  1. Doubt
  2. Liabilities
  3. Denial
  4. Resources
  5. Causality
  6. Lack of Global Standards
  7. Benchmarking
  8. Lack of comparative credibility
  9. Uncertainty
  10. Fear of the unknown
  11. Fear of the known


My estimation is that this list continues to evolve depending on the industry, the chief in charge, and even by which quarter we are in.

In coming days, I will review these challenges  — after hearing from some of business’ most eminent executives at the Annual Summit —  and hopefully shed some light on how some businesses’ have indeed managed to overcome them, and found advantage in doing so.

Stay tuned!