So, what is Corporate Responsibility….?
‘It’s a function of a company that ensures we do business ethically’
‘Oh, so like Compliance?’
‘No like Corporate Responsibility….’
The above is a snippet of a conversation I’ve had pertaining to Corporate Responsibility (CR)….a few times haha! My desire to be a CR professional was birthed back in university. It's where I realised, I wanted to make a positive impact on people and communities but within a business environment. Back then I wasn’t aware it was called CR and it wasn’t one of the obvious career choices as an economic student. I’m pleased it’s grown in prominence since university but still think its part of an organisation employees/people don’t fully understand. So, I thought it would be helpful to write an overview about CR and the key role it plays in a company’s success.
Organisations call Corporate Responsibility (CR) several names. Some say Responsible Business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) others Sustainability. For the sake of the blog I will refer to it as CR/Responsible Business. Regardless of the name, CR is a companies’ commitment/strategy to carry out business in an ethical way. By considering employees, communities, the environment, suppliers and customers. CR tends to be a stand-alone function however; it may be a part of HR or Marketing in some organisations.
CR initiatives can be implemented in all areas of a business creating a positive impact on the above stakeholders. An example of CR initiatives for employees could be, paying the Living wage for typically low paid roles, matching their charitable donations, having a clear social purpose they can engage with and offering paid volunteering days. For the environment it could be waste reduction measures such as eliminating single-use plastics and/or food waste. For suppliers it can be an inclusion programme focused on onboarding diverse small to medium enterprises, to help them grow and drive innovation. It’s also ensuring that suppliers used by a company have good labour, health &safety and environmental practices. For the community a CR initiative can involve supporting a financial literacy or reading partners program with local schools.
So how does CR contribute to the success of a business?
There are clear business benefits to having good CR commitments and companies understand this. CR commitments help with increasing sales, generating positive publicity and gaining new clients/customers. I’ve contributed to bids at work were our community investment and waste reduction initiatives provided a competitive edge over our competitors, allowing us to win new business. The success of Unilever’s brands with purpose also highlights how responsible business can positively impact profits;
Our purpose-led brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of our business. It’s a clear signal that brands with sustainability at their core don’t just do good for people and the planet, they perform brilliantly too. And now we’re pledging that in the future, every brand within Unilever will be a brand.
I intend to build further on Unilever’s century-old commitment to responsible business. It is not about putting purpose ahead of profits, it is purpose that drives profits’ Unilever CEO Alan Jope.
The benefit of Responsible Business is also supported by global research on consumer trends and social purpose;
Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability from Nielsen says of the findings, “Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions.
Being a responsible business can also attract, retain and maintain a happy workforce and make an organisation an Employer of Choice. Which ultimately leads to significant cost savings and a productive work force, essential for business. According to a PwC report, corporate social values have become more important to millennials when choosing an employer once their basic needs, like adequate pay and working conditions, are met. The report states that “millennials want their work to have a purpose, to contribute something to the world and they want to be proud of their employer.”
Furthermore, a study from Benevity, employee engagement platform, examined the activity of more than 2 million users. They found that turnover dropped by an average of 57% in the employee group most deeply connected to their companies’ giving and volunteering efforts.
It is worth noting, that although CR can be a key factor in a success of an organisation, it should be a genuine commitment not just a mere-add on. The current climate and what is to follow is going to be pivotal in helping consumers and stakeholders identify companies engaged in “social washing”. This refers to statements or policies that make a company appear more socially responsible than it is. A carefully implemented, CR strategy, big or small, can positively impact an organisation over time. Therefore, it should not be viewed as a drain on resources but as an investment that will be bring long-term benefits.
I encourage you to engage and explore what your organisations does pertaining to CR. The initiatives could help you with personal development or even your personal business endeavours. For instance, if you have a charity or social enterprise, you could ask your organisation for funding or support. Several organisations provide grants for employee projects and may want to help even more during this time. Alternatively, you could ask for a day off to volunteer, most companies offer paid volunteering days. Otherwise, the above information can help you implement CR commitments into your personal business to positively drive the service you provide.
I hope this provides a clearer picture of CR and the tangible value it brings to an organisation. For further information on anything discussed please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.