Jeremy Prepscius, Vice President, Asia-Pacific, BSR

The geographies of sustainability are both broadening and deepening around the world. In past years, sustainability issues were most often seen through the eyes of western consumers, and addressed, on occasion, in supply chains in distant lands. These distant lands are today’s key markets, and as growth in emerging markets becomes increasingly important for corporate profitability, listening to the voices of stakeholders—consumers, business partners, regulators, academics, and civil society—in these markets is equally critical. In today’s changing world, the insights gathered from these new voices in new geographies need to lead to concrete action locally. The insights should not only inform global corporate policies and strategies, but also determine how companies invest in, speak to, and create opportunities in local markets.

Engaging local stakeholders in current and future markets is key to understanding the unique characteristics of these marketplaces. The dynamics of the local social dialogue, the expectations for corporate communications and transparency, the needs of local consumers and communities—all these elements should enable a company to set up and invest in its local presence, including brand, marketing, supply chain and sustainability strategies. Local dynamics in India, Brazil, Indonesia, and China are certainly very different, and companies needs to understand each dynamic and invest appropriately, while also maintaining consistency with global policies.

Insights gleaned from stakeholders “on the ground” can better inform local risk mitigation and corporate controls. Insights relating to graft and corruption within sales or procurement networks, challenges in water management, pollution abatement, or general community health gathered from networks of stakeholders can help inform corporate mitigation efforts, focus supply chain policy and determine implementation. By understanding local flash points, government priorities, and community needs, corporate resources can be efficiently deployed to address these needs and avoid conflict with stakeholders, negative impacts on the brand, and market disruption. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, gathering local insights and nurturing a network of stakeholders can lead to new business opportunities for companies who understand specific local needs and configure their value proposition appropriately. 

The new geographies of sustainability are already hotbeds of innovation and creativity. Their potential can be further optimized by and for global business through investment in insight, people, and corporate practices that align local insight and global strategy.

BSR's recent initiative,the "New Geographies of Sustainability" seeks to rebalance the discourse on the role of business in addressing social, environmental, and economic challenges by including perspectives from Brazil, China, and India.