Trends from the Responsible Business Summit last week

As you’ll know as a blog reader, we had our big annual conference last week in London.

Around 450 attendees, 60 speakers and 8 CEOs debated the key 2010 issues for two days.

It was great to see everyone who came along, and there was a good buzz around the event and awards.

More on the awards in another post. As for the conference, we had a few tweeters, myself included, using the hashtag RBS2010. There are some interesting nuggets there that are worth searching out if you have Tweetdeck or can search on Twitter.com

Fabian Pattberg, a CR blogger, offers his thoughts on the conference here.

My view from what I saw and heard is that the recession has helped provide corporate efforts with much more focus in their CR efforts.

This is both a good and bad thing. It’s good because we are seeing firm and challenging targets on carbon emissions reduction and resources use.

It can be unhelpful because a laser-like focus can clearly discourage innovation in other areas, it can close the mind and meeting agenda to new ideas.

Focus is perfectly understandable since 2008. Companies have been, along with the rest of us, very concerned about recession. Jobs have been cut and firms and their CEOs have pulled their heads in, and got on with the business of selling products and services and not much else.

It’s going to take time for big companies to emerge from this. We’re seeing those who had dug a moat around their work on sustainability strategy continue to push the agenda. Companies who we might call the usual suspects. I refer to a couple of them in this interview.

The question is, what about those companies who were not quite there, back in 2008? What are they doing in 2010? Hard to generalise, but we’re seeing a great deal of caution from what I could see from the conference and from my contacts and conversations generally.

Fabian’s point about emerging markets is interesting. He asks where the executives are from these nations, at conferences like ours. I think the outlook is more positive than he hints at. Emerging market companies have tighter budgets and operate in more volatile markets, so it’s not surprising they don’t come in droves to our conference in London. More of them will be at the GRI conference, since the report is still the biggest part of CR (beyond compliance) for a lot companies.

This is why we’re looking to expand the Responsible Business Summit Brand into new markets soon. We hope we can bring a globally focused CR conference to your area soon, on that topic watch this space.

Overall, I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture of CR after the conference. We’re all still recovering from a brutal last couple of years. That corporate responsibility survived the appalling downturn so strongly says much about how important it is. What we’d all like to see now is bolder shifts from business. Trust is placed in those who lead, and trust is possibly the most important driver for responsible business, after all.

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