Are you ready to report on your real-time manufacturing facility air quality and working conditions? If the idea of that sort of transparency and data gives you a chill, then I encourage you to keep reading.
The next trend to hit the commercial real estate market has everything to do with corporate social responsibility. Smart businesses are investing in CSR NOW.
Today, just about every leading company participates in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, and proudly announces its planet-friendly accomplishments in an annual report. The annual report carefully compiles information, and packages it with positioning statements, and branded content. The annual report is designed to impress investors, clients, and customers. But even if your annual CSR report has all the characteristics of the industry standard, don’t be lulled into complacency. I assure you, a change is coming.
GRI released a report, “The Next Era of Corporate Disclosure”, that explores new formats, content, and roles for stakeholders in public disclosure. What is clear from GRI’s extensive interviews with industry leaders, and is bolstered by our own experience in the field, is that sustainability data is becoming more dynamic, available on more channels, digitized, and made democratic. Companies will have less control over their message and story just as the demand for data and transparency spikes.
Further, the next – and biggest – generation in American history, is growing up. The current buying power of the millennial generation is $200 million annually according to Forbes, and they have not reached peak spending years yet, that is yet to come. This generation is also the most socially conscious and technologically connected generation in history.
I call millennials power-consumers because they can move industries and organizations from the connected device in the palm of their hand.
So, while the industry-standard CSR reports might fit the bill for the investor community and corporate sustainability officers, the next generation of power-consumers demands more.
These power-consumers will expect fast access to CSR reports that provide real-time data and supply chain information. CSR reports with data that is months or even years old will be a thing of the past.
You don’t have to look far for to see how consumers can change company behaviors. From beer boycotts in the 1970’s to buyer-driven movements right now on Twitter, consumers have used the free market to punish companies that cross the line and endorse companies that do the right thing. Right now, the majority of consumer CSR focus is on home goods and consumables, but as access to information expands and data tracking becomes easier, consumers will expand their interest to where they spend their time; where they work, where they learn, and where they vacation. Commercial real estate will need to expose its environmental performance and radically depart from the classic annual sustainability report.
Buildings are an important part of the story
Customers want to know whether a company is planet-friendly and how their procurement decisions are made. Are their buildings sustainability built and operated? Do they want to support their decisions? Does their operating strategy and supply chain match their values? Does the owner meet the standard for a modern and well-run business?
As a building owner, you’re probably already gathering and reporting operational data about your building—utility usage, energy efficiency, and GHG emissions. But what about employee and tenant behavior? Supply chain management, resource advocacy, social justice, and wage disparity data? All these factors are increasingly well understood by the buying public and have a direct impact on the business of your building tenants. Building a CSR reporting interface that can help businesses answer these questions first and best will win the buyer.
Go real-time with corporate social responsibility data
So how do you use real-time CSR data to provide a differentiator today? Build knowledge about your employees’, clients’ and investors’ values, and be ready for real-time reporting that fits your brand.
Here’s what you should be thinking about for 2018:
- Complete an audit of current employees, investors, and tenants + CSR to determine your current landscape
- Sample peer CSR reports to set a baseline for reporting depth and information
- Get a 101 from an expert on the various CSR reporting structures to find a format that aligns best to your business
- Set a short-, mid-, and long-term strategy for CSR reporting that includes technology investment. Get your IT team involved sooner rather than later.
And don’t learn on your own dime. We, and others in the industry, and are here to help. Hire an expert, hold that consulting partner to the highest expectations, and get what you need to be ready for what’s inevitably next.