A friend of mine (Natasha Hanson) landed in Kerala, India last week with her CEO. Why? They’re there as part of Direct Rail Services’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and will be there for a total of three weeks. Natasha told me that all DRS staff get five days per year paid leave to take part in CSR initiatives. Impressive stuff – well done DRS. I was pretty blown away by the distance they were travelling to help women with their language and business skills. And also the length of time they were dedicating to doing this. So decided to have a gander into the world of CSR for this blog.
We’ve all heard of CSR. And we may even have a pretty good idea of why it’s important, to all businesses. But are we certain we even know what it is? Well it turns out it means different things to different people. A quick straw poll of people I know suggests lots of different interpretations, which should be addressed by all employers (more on that later). Here are a few definitions of CSR I heard this week:
- It’s about policies in the office
- Ensures diversity – socio economic and ethnicity
- Where the company helps a charity get more money
- Just a way of getting cheap PR that doesn’t mean anything
- Companies evaluating decisions from an ethical as well as commercial viewpoint
- Isn’t this something to do with being greener?
- Environmental stuff – waste management and sustainability and awareness of environmental impact your company has
- The environment, local community, renewables and pollution
- Your company helping to make the world a better place
- I’ve absolutely no idea
- A cynical attempt at selling products by appearing to care
- Giving back and showboating a bit
- Couldn’t tell you sorry
- To be mindful of what you do and its potential impact (social, environmental and reputationally)
- Companies doing things for the community
There’s a general consensus about what it probably is. But no real clarity. So why the confusion. Shouldn’t important stuff like this be crystal clear to the workforce? In my opinion yes it should. It’s not just millennials that put weight to this important area.
So the next thing I did was a Google Search for 20 big high street names, using this as a search term: ‘*company name* CSR UK’. Only 8 of those 20 clients had anything substantial about CSR come up using this search criteria. Next I looked at their careers pages. Now remember us talking about how we all think the environment and the world’s overall health is pretty important stuff (think plastics)? You’d think that a company’s CSR would be an important area when deciding your next job/employer. Yet only three of the companies I Googled had anything on their careers site about CSR.
My point is CSR should feature in recruitment comms and be part of a company’s recruitment messaging. But it doesn’t. Don’t we all have a collective responsibility to the planet as both individuals and businesses? So let’s all promote the CSR work as a business. It makes good business sense and it will also help attract and retain staff.
Finally, it’s also worth considering those employees who look at CSR as a cynical endeavour that just wants to score Brownie points. If you’re going to do CSR in a way that feels genuine to your people, it’s important that you put it back in their hands and let them develop it from the bottom up. It’s a cultural matter, in that sense.
By encouraging the people who work for you to collectively roll out their own vision for social responsibility, you build a far greater landscape for employee buy-in. Which is why we now find ourselves at Jupiter communicating more and more with clients’ existing staff to gauge their opinions and include them in the CSR decision-making process. If they build it themselves, it becomes a natural part of your offering as an employer. All you have to do is shout about it.
Finally I hope you’re having a great time Natasha. I honestly wish I was there with you :)