Frequently Asked Questions
Mission and Values
What are the core values of BSR?
Our core values include leadership, integrity, and respect. These values are intended to guide our actions and mindset, and apply equally to our work with member companies, other key stakeholders, and the way we interact with each other internally.
Using these values, we strive to act as a catalyst for progress for the global business community in building a more sustainable world. We are focused on impact (through tangible results), authority (through excellence and insight in our work), compassion (through a respectful and nonjudgmental approach), and connection (through our global network).
What is the mission of BSR?
Our mission is to work with business to create a just and sustainable world.
Why is BSR a non-profit organization?
We are a nonprofit organization for three reasons.
First, our not-for-profit status symbolizes the fact that we are a mission-driven organization, and it provides additional credibility with both member companies and the wide range of stakeholders with whom we work. Second, our not-for-profit status strengthens our ability to receive funding from foundations and public-sector organizations for grant-supported work that is central to our mission. Third, the not-for-profit status ensures that we invest all of our earnings to further develop the organization, enabling us to pursue our mission.
Why is BSR a membership organization?
We are a membership organization because this provides a highly valuable way for us to pursue our mission and support stronger sustainability performance by business.
This model reflects our view that we can achieve our mission through a combination of working with individual companies, groups of companies, and cross-sector partnerships. We also believe that our member companies can make great progress not only by drawing on the skills and experience of our staff, but by tapping into the collective intelligence of our member company network. This network-based model has only grown in importance over the past two decades, and it is now recognized widely as one of the essential means of making progress in the interconnected 21st century world. We have found repeatedly in our two decades of activity that we have been able to promote our mission by enabling best-practice sharing across industry sectors, building value chain solutions, and catalyzing industrywide action. Finally, most of our member companies embrace the notion that many elements of the sustainability agenda are “pre-competitive” matters that benefit from shared action.
What core issues does BSR focus on?
We believe that a holistic approach to sustainability is best.
Throughout our history, we have advocated for companies to adopt comprehensive sustainability strategies, addressing the topics that are most relevant to them, and with an appreciation of the many links between individual issues.
Within that model, we focus our activities on four broad set of issues: environment, human rights, economic development, and governance and accountability.
Where is BSR headquartered?
After our early launch in Washington, D.C., we moved our headquarters to San Francisco, which remains our largest office in terms of staff and the home of BSR’s President and CEO.
Our management team is spread across our locations in Copenhagen, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, and San Francisco to provide a truly global perspective on the business of sustainability.
BSR currently has offices in Beijing, Copenhagen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and São Paulo, with staff and representatives working in Shanghai, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C.
What is the background and expertise of BSR staff members?
By design, our staff members embody a diverse set of experiences and expertise.
Collectively, we have the ability to address core sustainability issues with a keen understanding of how they are applied in business. In addition to expertise in our four priority issue areas (environment, human rights, economic development, and governance and accountability), we maintain staff expertise in specific industry sectors, geographic locations, and core sustainability activities. We actively recruit staff with work experience in diverse environments, including business, government, civil society, academia, and consulting. We also seek staff with a global outlook, who are adept at applying new perspectives to our work. We are well-positioned to provide world-class expertise to leading companies on most key issues, with access to additional expertise through our worldwide network.
How is BSR different from trade or other business associations?
Many trade associations exist to represent the interests of their members. We exist for a different purpose: to help business advance to more sustainable models.
We decided early in our history that we would not “represent” member companies, and this remains a core principle today. While organizations that take this approach can provide a valuable service, we believe our model allows us to promote leadership actions regardless of whether the majority or consensus view of our members is in agreement.
How can BSR serve as a consultant and retain its non-profit status?
Our ability to provide tailored business solutions to sustainability challenges is core to our success as an organization.
While the early years of our history were devoted to awareness raising around sustainability and CSR, our work in more recent years has been focused on answering the question: “How can my company implement sustainable business practices?” We meet this challenge by using consulting assignments to encourage and enable individual companies to act.
Our consulting work is designed with our mission in mind. We provide high-quality services to companies that are serious about creating a just and sustainable world. We encourage the companies for which we consult to advance as far as they can with the advice we provide. We hope that in these engagements we are a constructive force that promotes leadership.
To maintain our not-for-profit status, we draw upon lessons from all of our work—consulting and other activities—and make them available to the public through publications, events, and other means.
Does BSR certify or endorse companies?
We do not endorse or certify companies. While we believe that certifications can promote improved sustainability performance, under the right circumstances, we do not focus our energies on this.
There are several reasons for this policy. First, we believe that it would be a conflict of interest to certify companies when we have a member relationship with them and often consult for them as well. Second, we believe that the sustainability agenda is so dynamic that the criteria for certification will—and should—change over time, making it difficult to determine where to “set the bar” for certification. Third, we believe we can add greater value by focusing on how to improve sustainability performance across the board for business rather than measuring performance.
What does membership cost?
Membership dues are based on a company’s gross annual revenues. More information is available on our Eligibility & Dues page.
Who are the current members of BSR?
We have more than 250 member companies, from a range of industry sectors. A full list is available at www.bsr.org/member-list.
Who can join as a member of BSR?
We maintain an open membership policy. Any company that expresses the desire to improve its sustainability performance is welcome to join BSR.
We maintain this open membership policy for three main reasons. First, we believe all companies have areas of their performance that can be improved, and our open membership policy ensures that we can promote improvement where it is most needed. As our founders stated, BSR works with “leaders and learners, and most companies are both.” An approach that excludes companies from membership would undermine our ability to work with individual companies, and share information between companies. Second, applying a test to membership would inevitably lead to a “revolving door” membership that would interfere with our approach. Our experience has been that company performance can vary—sometimes substantially—from year to year. Third, we do not believe there is, as yet, a consensus view on what performance is “enough” as it relates to sustainability. We are not a standard-setting organization and do not see existing standards that would provide an accurate and reliable view of what kind or level of performance is sufficient.
The integrity of this model is safeguarded by our policy against allowing companies to cite BSR membership as a “seal of approval” certifying that they have achieved a certain level of performance. As we do not establish qualifying criteria for membership, we are clear about stating that the fact of BSR membership alone does not provide any qualitative assessment of a company’s performance on sustainability.
How and when was BSR founded?
BSR was founded in 1992 as Business for Social Responsibility by a group of entrepreneurs and businesses who sought to create an organization that could help companies act in a more responsible manner.
The founders wanted to fill a gap between business organizations that had yet to embrace corporate responsibility, and advocacy organizations that promoted corporate responsibility but did not yet have the understanding of business to enable change in that community.
How has BSR evolved over the past 20 years?
While our mission has remained constant throughout our 20-year history, how we pursue our mission evolves continuously.
In our earliest days, we focused a great deal of attention on raising awareness in the business community about the importance and validity of CSR. Much of our work in the 1990s was supported by charitable foundations interested in building the foundation of this movement. Early on, our membership was almost exclusively composed of U.S.-based companies and dominated by small- and medium-sized businesses.
In the late 1990s, we gained more momentum with larger companies and began to work outside the United States. We also began to offer practical advice to companies, initially as technical assistance. In 2000, we decided to focus efforts on large companies, create additional capacity to provide consulting advice, and actively seek a presence outside the United States. In addition, as foundations began to diminish their provision of general-support funding, we sought a more diversified revenue model.
In 2003, we embarked on a strategic planning process that coincided with Bob Dunn’s move to step down as President and CEO the following year. Our board ratified a strategy to focus more attention on consulting for large companies and building a more global organization. This strategy was predicated on the notion that “the era of awareness raising” was over.
More recently, we have accelerated in our evolution as a global organization. Today, our staff of more than 100 professionals is spread across eight offices in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. We have shifted from having nearly 90 percent of our team in San Francisco in 2007, to half that percentage today.
How can I participate in the BSR Conference?
Registration for the BSR Conference is available online.
How many years has BSR held an annual conference?
Our first annual Conference was held in Washington, D.C., in 1993. This year’s Conference, in San Francisco November 5-8, 2013, will be our 21st annual Conference.
Don’t See Your Question Here?
For more detailed information about BSR and our impact, our staff, our challenges, and financial overview, please view the BSR at 20 Report, “Accelerating Progress”