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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) isn’t an optional extra, but something Canadian companies have to take very seriously if they want to survive and thrive, according to HP Canada CEO Paul Tsaparis.

Whether practiced out of compulsion, conviction, or just enlightened self interest, CSR is a key competitive differentiator in the public and private sectors alike, Tsaparis said.

The HP CEO was addressing members of the Canadian Club in Toronto on Monday, April 25, which happened to be his birthday.

“How we do business is as important to our success as what we do,” Tsaparis said, citing a study by GlobeScan Inc. a Toronto-based research firm as evidence.

The HP Canada Co. commissioned study revealed that most Canadians – 93 per cent of those surveyed – believe social responsibility is as important to companies as profit and shareholder values.

Tsaparis also cited study findings on the dire consequences of not measuring up. “Last year alone 40 per cent of Canadians surveyed reported punishing corporations by not purchasing their products or speaking critically about them when they felt those companies were not acting in a socially responsible manner.”

He said the opposite is also true – Canadians reward socially responsible companies. “More than 92 per cent of [those] surveyed said the more socially and environmentally responsible a company is, the more likely they are to purchase its products and services.”

Tsaparis said his own experience showed him close relationship between CSR and performance.

“The competitive differentiators of the past have become what we call ‘table stakes’ today,” he said. “Things like low cost and customer experience are now a requirement of doing business, not something that sets a company apart.”

Even innovation, he said, while it remains a differentiator – is “no longer simply about faster feeds and speeds [but also] about…the effective integration of sustainability and CSR into our business strategy.”

The HP CEO also touched on another aspect of CSR particularly relevant to tech vendors – their responsibility to help close the gap between technology-empowered and technology-excluded communities.

In that context, he admitted that only 10 per cent of the world today can afford to buy the technology products that HP sells. Serving the other 90 per cent, he said, requires a different approach and thought process.

“There is a different hierarchy of needs in these markets and our success depends on our ability to recognize, support and capitalize on these needs and priorities.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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