Businesses should act now to develop CSR and environmental policies rather than waiting for governments or regulatory bodies to set targets.
Companies should work with their suppliers and even their competitors to find innovative ways to improve their CSR work.
Those were among the key messages to delegates on the opening day of the Responsible Business Summit in London on Tuesday.
Delegates and speakers from across Europe gathered to share their experiences and advice in the seventh year of the event.
Ingar Skaug, CEO of shipping and martime services firm Wilh. Wilhelmsen, said his company's experience had shown that businesses should not wait for regulations to become greener.
"What we have found with the maritime organisations is they are very slow because they have all governments involved in them," he said.
"We cannot wait for that. We have to take our share of the responsibility and not wait for governments to tell us what to do."
Colin Maund, CEO of sustainable procurement advisers Achilles, urged more companies to team up for the greater good.
"I think the solution that seems to be coming to the fore is for people to work together - even those that might traditionally be competitors."
He said that supply chains, and particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, also needed to be included in the development of CSR policies to prevent them feeling like "victims".
Dominique Gangneux, partner at consultancy ERM, advised companies to look at how sustainability played a part in every aspect of their business, including carrying out an environmental audit of their top five products.
"There's no use having sustainable product if the rest of your company is not sustainable," he said.
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