Q&A with Sustainalytics about corporate social responsibility

Heather Lang, Director, Research Products, North America, at Sustainalytics


For the fifth year in a row, Maclean’s has partnered with Sustainalytics, a global leader in sustainability analysis, to select 50 leaders in corporate social responsibility–companies who know that doing good is just good business. Canada’s Top 50 Socially Responsible Companies were selected on the basis of their performance across a broad range of environmental, social, and governance indicators and rank at the top of their industry groups.

Maclean’s sat down with Heather Lang, Director, Research Products, North America, at Sustainalytics, to discuss corporate social responsibility. We asked her the following questions:

  • When did industry start paying attention to corporate social responsibility, and how has it evolved over the last decade?
  • In the wake of the horrific clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh, international retailers are being called on to improve safety at the country’s 4,000 garments factories. Are these steps appropriate examples of corporate social responsibility?
  • Some would suggest corporate social responsibility is nothing but a PR ploy, that Bangladeshi factory workers won’t see any appreciable improvements to their safety or working conditions. How do you respond to critics? Can you point to past examples of clothing retailers who have worked to change the conditions of their overseas workers?
  • Readers may be surprised to learn that several oil sands firms—cast as corporate villains by environmental activists—have made the ranking of the Top 50 socially responsible corporations. Isn’t this just another example of greenwashing? What are these oil firms doing differently?
  • Why shouldn’t companies leave charitable work to non-profits and focus on the bottom line?
  • Pepsi, not generally heralded for their healthy food options, also made the Top 50 ranking. Have market realities forced Pepsi to look more closely at its menu choices?

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Q&A with Sustainalytics about corporate social responsibility

  1. Improving safety standards in Bangladesh is a step in the right direction, but what about all the other countries that have similar working conditions? Why should the newly adopted Accord on Fire and Building Safety be limited to Bangladesh? We need to see more proactive measures by the international community to ensure that a tragedy like Rana doesn’t happen again. Corporate Social Responsibility shouldn’t just be about improving a brand image. To get it right we need a comprehensive policy with enforceable penalties and targets for environment and social development. For more information on serious CSR programs, http://harmonyfdn.ca/?page_id=1945

  2. Canned, over-rehearsed and completely devoid of sincerity. If you’re an expert in your field, why read from cue cards?