Business Strategy_Diagram_istockThe old political and business adage holds that “information is power.”   But information may also be one of the keys to successful corporate social responsibility – which has become a “strategic objective” for business leaders worldwide, according to a new survey conducted by computer services giant IBM.

The company said its 2009 survey of 224 business leaders shows that 60 percent believe that environmental and social responsibility has increased in importance over the past year while only 6 percent say it is a lower priority.  “These responses defy the conventional wisdom that the new economic environment dilutes CSR focus,” IBM said.

Among other findings:

“Demands for information pertaining to an organization’s social and environmental impact – whether from consumers, regulators, NGOs or conscientious investors – have risen dramatically. Given today’s harsh realities of global warming, increased regulation, scarcer and costlier resources, and exploding populations, attention to environmental, health and societal concerns will only intensify.

Global connectivity has raised the stakes relating to a corporation’s accountability for its actions. Points of view abound – on what’s harmful and what’s not, as well as what constitutes good business, good practice or even good sense. With the advent of the Internet, NGO scrutiny is being matched by a new kind of viral and pervasive consumer advocacy.”

Perhaps not surprisingly – given that the survey was conducted by IBM – the results indicated a much greater need for information and information systems.

“Today, determining the exact field where a tree, copper or ore is extracted is as feasible as examining employees’ labor rights in a factory located in a village of a thousand on the tip of an isthmus in Vietnam. With so much information available, leading organizations are finding they can satisfy the demands of a new generation of consumers: the information omnivores,” IBM said.

The complete IBM report can be downloaded here.