Corporate social responsibility (CSR) emerged in the UK in the 1990s as a developing agenda which was a reflection of growing public and governmental concerns about the effects of large corporations on society and the environment. The chief areas of CSR focus have been a company’s marketing practices and communications, and also the impact of their operations on workers in their supply chain including their families and communities.
The CSR agenda is being replaced by the practices of sustainability. Such practices by corporations carries resonance with their stakeholders as well as their investors who see value creation opportunities and cost reduction opportunities in the strategic use of sustainability concepts, practices and innovation. However, investments in sustainability projects and innovation are frequently longer-term investments and economic returns on social and environmental investments may take up to three years or more.
Sustainable business or sustainable enterprise are terms that are now being used by firms who are integrating sustainable business practices into their corporate and brand strategies whilst seeking to address both shareholder and stakeholder interests within these strategies.
Mike Barry, director of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer, the UK retailer, described their successful Plan A strategy launched in 2007 as a recognition that “the days of corporate social responsibility are over” and that CSR has been replaced by the larger and more strategic idea of sustainable business.
The aim of Plan A is to make Marks & Spencer the world's most sustainable retailer. The strategy involves 180 commitments to achieve by 2015. the retailer is working with customers and suppliers to deal with climate change, cut waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically, and help customers to adopt healthier lifestyles.