Call for Greater Corporate ‘Social’ Focus
21 August 2013 at 10:25 am
A microfinance provider has called on Australian companies to embrace the business benefits of an increased social focus and to start thinking of social practices as far more than just ‘doing good’ or ticking a box.
According to Robert Dunn, CEO of Opportunity International Australia, a global pioneer of socially focused microfinance, “The smartest companies are using social programs to create shared value (CSV) that generates real, tangible value for the company, ultimately benefiting shareholders.”
Dunn said that recent shifts in the mindsets of organisations have led to an increased focus on social programs being integral to a company’s business success and reputation, but, even more so, key to improving their bottom line.
“It used to be that companies embarked on CSR programs because they felt they ‘should’. Today we’re seeing some real strategy behind a company’s a social focus and the establishment of it as a central tenet of their business strategy. The concept of ‘creating shared value’ (CSV) is not about giving away a slice of the pie, but rather about growing the pie.”
CSV means that companies can do social good while also developing new products and markets, lifting productivity in the value chain and building a supportive industry in areas where they operate.
“By embedding this into their day-to-day operations and aligning social causes with their corporate strategy, organisations are finding that the positive flow-on effects can be quite substantial,” Dunn said.
“The electronic age and social media are placing yet more pressure on corporations. Consumers are able to share information, both good and bad, easily and widely. Ready access to information about work and labour practices, including where and how items are produced means that companies can no longer hide from their customers – or investors.
“Investors are increasingly scrutinising companies to demonstrate sound ethics, good governance and corporate responsibility. Shining a light on this side of the business and getting strategic is clearly in a company’s interest.
“Employees are also emphasising the need for corporate responsibility.Employees, and particularly young employees, care deeply about the company they work for and organisations with a social focus are more likely to attract and retain high-quality staff.”
Dunn said that while there was always room for improvement, many Australian companies are embracing CSR and CSV and that it was incumbent on these leading lights to set an example to other companies by publicising their efforts more widely.
“Organisations such as PwC and Westpac are really ‘walking the talk’ by, for example, making sustainability part of their business proposition and integrating it with products and services.”
“77% of Australians say companies should do more to contribute to society, but it not just about positive PR. There are real benefits to be gained at the bottom line,” Dunn said.