The future of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting could be considered to be at a pivotal point as it currently:
- lacks the discipline, regularity, focus and systems investment of financial accounting to effect timely and efficient decision-making.
- uses a plethora of frameworks, standards and metrics to report against, many of which may not be technologically advanced for digitally enabled Millennial decision makers.
- can sometimes be used to hide or instigate irresponsible behaviours resulting in it being perceived as greenwash.
This worrying trend is set in an environment in which CEO credibility is rapidly declining and business is perceived as being on the ‘brink of distrust’.
The ‘Millennial’ generation may be the catalysts to develop improved CSR reporting as they increasingly gain leadership positions. Their pervasive use of technology, high levels of civic engagement, interest in environmental issues and trusting the opinion of their peers rather than experts, may drive the development of real time, new forms and new methods of CSR reporting. Millennials are an interesting case to research because they:
- are masters of digital communication demanding instant information on products and services in real time. They want to use the technological innovations they use in their private lives in the workplace. Traditional CSR frameworks and annual cycle reporting may lack relevance to a generation whose mantra is ‘right here, right now’.
- as ‘digital natives’ they have grown up with technology and are believed to think and process information differently to their predecessors.
- are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70% say giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.
- believe business is a source for good and should have a purpose beyond profit. They want to contribute to the positive impact they believe business has on society but in so doing wish to remain true to their personal values; values which will guide where they work.
Conversely the increased reliance of Millennials on technology and social media may produce a negative effect. When faced with a potentially overwhelming flow of information the result could be a superficial analysis or even disregard of key issues. Consequently instantaneous decision making may result in poor, inaccurate, baseless decision making.
This research will explore the requirements of the millennial generation - who are taking leading management positions in the business world - to determine if current reporting methods are fit for their requirements and to investigate whether the development of a new set of reporting tools could further assist their decision making. Such developments could enable faster, more informed decision making on CSR issues enabling Millennial managers to routinely take business decisions using a broad set of information rather than focusing purely on financial data when taking business decisions.
I was awarded a 3 month research internship in open competition with the Innovation Caucus / Innovate UK in June 2017 based on a submission entitled ‘Millennials Do it On Demand’ - Millennials, Innovation and Decision Making’. The output from the research included three papers written for internal Innovate UK use entitled:
- Mapping the Support Landscape for Young Entrepreneurs from Disadvantaged and Diverse Backgrounds.
- Ideas man Business. Options for the Young Innovators Programme Awards.
- Millennials: The Role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Combatting Disadvantage.