CSR – A Reality, not a Buzzword

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CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has moved from being dismissed as a new-fangled buzzword to being regarded as a key business practice.

However, there remains a perception that larger companies are more likely to undertake Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives than SME’s as they have greater resources and capacity.

That isn’t and can’t be the case when you consider that over 99% of all enterprises in Ireland are SME’s that together employ over 800,000 people. CSR should apply to organisations of all sizes and sectors, while realising that the levels of CSR maturity and resources involved will naturally differ.

It’s more than bag-packing and community clean-ups, increasingly we at Fuzion are being asked by companies to provide root and branch evaluations of their CSR activities – an analysis of everything from how they communicate to, and treat, their employees, the environment and society to how they conduct their business and their relationships with customers.

From our consultancy work in this area, we know that CSR is a powerful branding and reputation driver that provides tangible benefits for businesses across the board.

This may seem very business focussed but whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we as consumers also pay increasingly more attention to how organisations operate, where and how they source and produce their services and goods, all of which influence our purchasing decisions. We are now much quicker to question intent and integrity. Just think of the evocative power of the phrase ‘locally sourced’.

That said, CSR programmes should not be pursued by businesses with the goal of profit making. They should be realistic and above all they must fit with the ethos and core values of the business.

But while it’s strength will be in its subtlety, a CSR programme must also stay relevant to the changing business environment, which is why planning and implementing a coherent strategy is chiefly important.

In our analysis, we look at the key pillars of CSR such as the Environment, Community, Marketplace and Workplace.

Environment

An environmental stewardship is how a company mitigates the negative impact it has on the landscape.

Recycling, waste and energy resource efficiency will not impact positively on the environment but a company’s bottom line in the long term. One of our clients, The River Lee Hotel, recently won the award of ‘Eco-Friendly Hotel of the Year’ which is a proud accreditation and testament to the hotel’s dedicated ‘green team’.

As customers, we want to see organisations taking their responsibility to the environment seriously so in turn this enhances consumer sentiment.

Safebook - Be safe online Community

Community is the pillar we most associate with CSR and while the vast majority of companies in Ireland engage in initiatives to support and finance local communities, they do so on an ad-hoc and informal basis which can lead to difficulties and a dilution of its effectiveness.

At Fuzion, we won a national Chambers Ireland CSR award for our international Safebook campaign, which was designed to encourage the responsible use of social media by young people.

Marketplace

The marketplace relates to how a company manages its relationship with its customers, suppliers and business partners. This centres on whether and how a company operates with societal and environmental consideration and ethics in the production and sourcing of its goods and services.

An incredible example of this is Tom’s Shoes. When you buy a pair of shoes a free pair is provided to someone in need!

 Workplace

The workplace underpins every successful business. To attract and retain the best talent, you must demonstrate a commitment to good workplace practices. Motivated and engaged employees deliver productivity, innovation and great customer service which contribute to a business’s reputation and success.

There are many practices that can help to achieve this such as offering flexible working arrangements, professional development opportunities and providing effective communication, leadership and people management to the more obvious and common health, sports and social benefits. Organisation culture and participation in award schemes also play a role in staff retention and talent acquisition which is hugely important for corporations in an ever competitive marketplace.

Zappos, the huge online shoe business have developed their own culture book which is available online.

From this overview, you’ll see that the power and scope of CSR activities as well as the benefits to society and businesses are immense and ever changing. Generating an understanding of its power and importance among companies is one of Fuzion’s goals, while practicing what we preach is our ethos.

Organisations who take a lead in CSR tend to be leaders in everything they do

Aoibhinn Twomey

Aobhinn Twomey is part of the Fuzion team who offer CSR consultancy  from  our offices in both Dublin and Cork.

 

 

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2 Responses to “CSR – A Reality, not a Buzzword”

  1. Fabio Venturini Says:

    This is a really great post. CSR is something that I have been examining very closely recently in relation to violence and child development. Preventing violence in the developing world is absolutely essential to sustainable development – children who experience violence either in their community or at home or school are less likely to succeed in school, are more likely to be low wage earners or unemployed and are more likely to perpetuate violence themselves. The end effect of this can be seen in economic terms – in fact it’s recently been estimated at costing $7 trillion worldwide. Removing such a massive impact on the global economy can only be good for businesses of all sizes.
    SMEs can be as effective as large corporations by supporting lots of different types of initiatives in areas such as education, support for victims of violence, parenting programs (for the community and for their employees) – in fact there’s a whole range of programs that by reducing hardship in general can have a positive effect on violence rates.
    So, while no company should be looking at CSR in terms of making a profit – as you rightly point out – a better, fairer society where people are not scared of their neighbours, are not worried about putting food on the table, feel free to treat their families to the occasional luxury… is always going to be better for business.

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