CSR Summit Preview - Built In Not Bolt On
27 October 2005 at 1:10 pm
Visiting UK CSR expert David Grayson is a key-note speaker at Australia’s first CSR Summit in Sydney in November. Here he offers Pro Bono Australia readers a preview of his views and ideas on CSR – what does it mean and who’s doing it?
Opinion by David Grayson:
No matter what line of business you are in, you are probably concerned about recruiting and retaining talented staff; cutting costs; standing out from the competition; finding new sources of creativity and innovation; and developing new products and services profitably.
Trying to be a responsible business (what multinationals often call Corporate Social Responsibility – CSR – or just Corporate Responsibility), can help you do all the above – and more.
Running your business ethically – asking yourself – as one Australian business person put it to me in Manly awhile back – “would I want this to be done to my mum or my best mate?” – and consciously seeking to minimise negative environmental and social impacts and to maximise the positive impacts – makes good business sense.
People prefer to work for an organisation that treats them fairly. An increasing number also want to work for an organisation that they can feel proud of – and whose values they share. Henry Stewart started his Happy Computers IT consultancy (www.happy.co.uk) in his spare bedroom in the east end of London 15 years ago. Today it ranks in the Financial Times 50 Top businesses to work for – and is rated first for work-life balance. As a result, Happy have a waiting list of 2000 people wanting to work for them – so they have no recruitment costs and also save on lower staff turnover.
Stamco Timber (www.stamco.co.uk) – a small family-owned business in Hastings on the English south coast, say that their commitment to responsible business differentiates them from larger competitors with both employees and customers.
For 50 year old British printing company Bovince Ltd (www.bovince.com) , environmental reporting has also set them apart from their competitors in an industry with many environmental challenges; allowed them access to new markets.
Furthermore, investing in new technology which is more environmentally friendly, has led to real savings, such as a 20 per cent reduction in the cost of a typical billboard promotion.
If CSR is commonsense, why isn’t it more common? Well, first off, it is a lot more common than you might think. But many business people – especially owner-managers – don’t use the language of responsible business.
UK research by Bibby Financial Services in 2004, for example, suggested that nearly nine out of 10 businesses have procedures in place to ensure that equal opportunities and human rights are adhered to. Furthermore, more than half of owner-managers make a conscious effort to help the environment by trying to minimise waste.
Over two thirds of owners and managers have donated money to charity in the last 12 months whilst 43 per cent have given voluntary help to charity. 13 per cent had actually developed a formal CSR program in the past year .
An earlier European Union-wide survey found a lot of activity – but often very ad hoc and unstructured. As customers – especially big business and public sector customers – start putting things like environmental and human rights requirements into their tender specifications, these issues are going to become even more important.
The Danish Government-funded Copenhagen Centre (www.copenhagencentre.org) has just surveyed Danish small and medium size enterprises (smes) and found that 2:3 now get CSR issues in their invitations to tender. This is broadly in line with Mori research in the UK.
Australia’s first CSR Summit – being held in Sydney Nov 30th-Dec 2nd – is a great opportunity to learn from other businesses – and to explore what these issues mean for your business – large or small.
My own view is that it will be in small businesses around the world, that we will see the most exciting developments in responsible business practice over the next few years.
The Babson Centre for Entrepreneurship in the USA reckons that in the last one hundred years, 95% of the significant innovations in products and services came first from firms with less than 20 employees. If that statistic is even broadly accurate, then expect to see small firms pointing the way when it comes to successfully integrating responsible business practice.
But Australia also has large businesses too that are exemplars – Westpac, for example, came top amongst more than one hundred leading global businesses in the latest Corporate Responsibility Index – “Companies that Count” – published by The Sunday Times (London) and the UK’s Business in the Community (www.bitc.org.uk).
Large or small, there are some essential “to dos” if CSR is to be built-in to business purpose and strategy rather just being a bolt-on to business operations. Talk to the people who are affected by or can affect your business: staff, customers, suppliers, your local community.
How do they believe that you can minimise your negative environmental and social impacts and maximise the positive impacts? Prioritise! Look for ways of turning this commitment into business opportunities. Find the bottom-line, business arguments for action.
The businesses that really seem to “get it” are those that succeed in blending Responsible Business values and strategy. So make the link back to your company values – and do make sure that you are being consistent across the business.
Commonsense also says that all this has to be managed just as professionally as any other aspect of business: with clear targets, accountabilities, time scales, effective measurement, regular reviews; and linked to rewards and promotion. We will be exploring all this – and much more – at the CSR Summit. See you there?
David Grayson CBE (www.davidgrayson.net) is chairman of the UK’s Small Business Consortium (www.smallbusinessjourney.com) and a director of Business in the Community. His book: “Corporate Social Opportunity – Seven Steps to make corporate social responsibility work for your business” is published by Greenleaf. David one of the key-note speakers at Australia’s first CSR Summit.
For more information on the CSR Summit (Nov 30th-Dec2nd 2005) contact Summit Director, Anne Maree Huxley on 03 9876 7073, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the website at http://www.csrsummit.com.