The last 10-15 years have seen a dramatic rise in interest in the social aspects of business activity. Concerns about climate change have escalated over the last five years to a point where few now dispute the scientific evidence that commercial activity is the greatest contributory factor in global warming.
Throughout Europe especially, but also in other parts of the world, governments have set up initiatives to promote notions of sustainable development and social responsibility. Indeed, it could be argued that the biggest initiatives are ‘supra-national’ involving UN led prerogatives in financial reporting (the Global Reporting Initiative), and in wider societal issues (e.g. the Global Compact and Millennium Goals etc).
In the UK, the government continues to urge companies to adopt responsible strategies and has funded a number of initiatives through the DTI and DEFRA (e.g. the CSR Academy) and increasing amounts of research output is appearing in articles, monographs and books. This whole area has provided a rich area of research over recent years, and the subject is now on the curriculum at about 50 UK academic institutions, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Researchers cover topics ranging from fair trade to green marketing, from sustainable tourism to emissions trading.