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Report Watch: PwC’s Stakes Claim to Global Leadership Role in Corporate Responsibility

By Melissa J. Anderson

Last week PwC released its first ever global corporate responsibility report. Rather than including data like lists of awards the company has won for its efforts, or firm-wide diversity statistics, or sustainability metrics, the report is positioned as a “dialogue” around the meaning of corporate responsibility, and how it should be successfully integrated within a firm’s business strategy.

And that’s the main issue, PwC says – CR has evolved past bonus activities to make a firm look good. It must now be considered a core part of every company’s strategy for growth and success.

PwC aims to come out as a leader in this sense of corporate responsibility. As Samual A. DiPiazza Jr, PwC International’s CEO, wrote in the report:

“As trusted advisors in the business community, we have a responsibility to consider all aspects of social and environmental sustainability. Our advice cannot be based solely on the drivers of change for today; we have a responsibility to help shape the drivers of the future. By using our expertise and skills to address social issues and assist communities, we can create change.”

The idea for the report is clearly to showcase the firm’s global leadership on the issue of corporate responsibility. But make no mistake – this is a business document. Insofar as PwC’s employees are advisors to their clients, the purpose of the new report is to explain to clients how PwC demonstrates corporate responsibility, and how it can help them do it too, as they navigate through the swiftly changing CR waters.

What is Corporate Responsibility?

The report sets out first to define corporate responsibility. According to PwC, CR is the “result of the “recognition that the private sector has a significant impact on society and can directly link its own vitality and wealth to the economic health of the global community.” As such, it no longer a business liability, but a critical part of the long term economic sustainability of the company.

More broadly, the company defines corporate responsibility as “any means by which organisations

integrate social, environmental and economic concerns in their strategy.”

The report further explains how professional services firms (PwC included) should approach CR strategically. The report explains:

“By harnessing creativity and innovation, professional service firms can develop new services, new initiatives, new markets and new business models to deliver timely and cutting-edge solutions that ensure an improved and sustainable social and physical environment.”

The company has actually done just that, with its sustainability practice, which has the goal of helping clients approach climate change from a risk management standpoint.

Global

While about half of the document set out to explain corporate responsibility and how global firms should replace CR strategically. Most of the other half discussed the firm’s new Global Communities initiative, which sets out to align PwC’s various global offices around CR objectives. Tony Harrington, the firm’s Global Communities Chairman wrote:

In establishing Global Communities two years ago, our aim was to provide a vehicle for collaboration across the network. The Global Communities Coordinators Group has been a driving force for such collaboration and instrumental in developing new ideas across territories and regions.

Harrington explained that this year, Global Communities will focus on two “cause areas”: climate change and education. The report included mini-case studies of various projects under the Global Communities banner, like partnering with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to inspire young people in the UK, partnering with Sociedad Activa in Chile to build sustainable economies, and working with ORBIS to treat blindness in China.

According to the report:

“Global Communities is made up of four pillars, or supports: providing professional services, volunteering in our communities, corporate community leadership, and giving. Our people work together across all four pillars, using their skills and knowledge for the maximum benefit of their communities. Most importantly, within each pillar we are focused on developing strong and sustainable communities. We recognise that each community is made up of a diverse range of individuals, organisations and forums and therefore require different ways for us to work with them.”

The work around Global Communities is strategic to the firm in that it creates stronger communities – which consist of clients and employees. In this way, CR is about business sustainability for PwC.

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