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Kiwis lag on corporate social responsibility

New Zealand companies are falling behind their overseas counterparts on corporate social responsibility (CSR),
a survey shows.

CSR, also referred to as corporate citizenship, involves companies taking on wider environmental and social
objectives as well as their primary goal of making a profit.

Examples include clothing company Toms, which donates one pair of shoes to needy children for every pair
bought by a customer, and coffee company Starbucks, which has created guidelines to ensure its coffee is
sustainably produced.

Kiwi examples include the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which has signed up to the United Nations
Principles for Responsible Investment, as has insurance firm Sovereign, which has also bought an electric car
and has an on-site charging station.

But most New Zealand companies have been slow to jump on the bandwagon, research by the Australian Centre
for Corporate Social Responsibility shows.

This year's State of Corporate Social Responsibility in Australia and New Zealand Annual Review was run in
conjunction with Melbourne's Deakin University and Auckland public relations company Wright Communications.

Wright Communications managing director Nikki Wright said while New Zealand organisations were aware of
CSR, they had been slow to implement it.

"This is reflected in the small numbers of New Zealand organisations who implement CSR programmes and take
the next step of formally reporting on their CSR activity," she said. Asked to consider their key CSR priorities for
the next 12 months, nearly all Kiwi respondents in the study rated building stronger relationships with
stakeholders as the top priority.

Other priorities included building internal support for their CSR-sustainability approach, measuring impacts and
outcomes of CSR initiatives, strengthening their social licence to operate, as well as waste and recycling

Almost all those surveyed said improving or beginning sustainability reporting was a key priority.

"The number of New Zealand organisations who undertake CSR reports is minimal, but there are plenty of
advantages for those who do," Wright said.

The study looked at how CSR reporting benefits companies.

The top five areas where CSR reporting adds value are:

Building a reputation for being a responsible business.

Contributing to brand positioning.

Better understanding of the material issues that affect the organisation.

Engaging senior leadership in strategic conversations about the organisation.

Improving stakeholder engagement.

Matthew Mimms, director of fund management distribution firm The Investment Store, said there was growing
interest in responsible investment, but mum and dad investors were not taking it up as quickly.

"My experience has been that at the institutional level there's been some uptake, but at the retail level it's been
quite thin and sporadic."

Mimms, who organises an annual responsible-investing conference in New Zealand, said investors may be
worried investing responsibly could reduce their returns.

"The general perception is there's a cost of doing good. That could be a reason why there's hesitancy,"he said.

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- Stuff