At a Social Market Foundation fringe meeting sponsored by oil giant Shell, the speakers unanimously rejected the claim that the business case for CSR rests on its potential benefit to corporate reputation.
Addressing delegates and reporters, Business in the Community director David Grayson said: 'As the legendary US investor Warren Buffett commented, "it takes years to build a good reputation and just minutes to destroy it." Anyone who thinks that CSR is just about a launch, a lunch and logo is very wrong.'
Shell UK head of external affairs Mark Phillips echoed Grayson's call for businesses to take the CSR issue more seriously than many currently do. He said: 'I wish I knew how you report on good things your organisation has done without it being dismissed as PR spin. That's the challenge for all involved.'
Meanwhile CSR minister Stephen Timms underlined the Government's reluctance to legislate on the issue of social and environmental reporting. He said: 'There are already a raft of laws and regulations that companies have to abide by, but true CSR is about going further than is required by law.
'The area is not something we propose to regulate or legislate on because that would the stifle the very creativity which is so refreshing in the sector.'
BITC used the event on Monday to call on smaller businesses to join its proposed Corporate Responsibility index. 'There are 3.7million small and medium-sized companies that should also be getting involved. We are to launch a campaign with the Institute of Directors to get them involved,' Grayson added.