Last week, I attended Commercial Group‘s annual CSR Day which was this year titled ‘Who Cares Wins’. At the event there were three keynote speakers – Quentin Clark from Waitrose, Simone Hindmarch-Bye from Commercial Group, and Mark Sheyla from This is Ape. Each of them spoke about their experiences of CSR, what their business is doing to take responsibility, or what they believe businesses should be doing. Over my next few blogs I’m going to be exploring CSR and sharing my key learnings from each of the keynotes. This blog will focus on CSR as a whole – what it is and why it is becoming increasingly important to consumers and businesses today.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is “a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society“. As competition between businesses grows, and the options for consumers increase, gone are the days when a consumer would go to the nearest supermarket or bank for their services. Now consumers have a wider choice and with businesses competing with better deals and offers, consumers are increasingly choosing where to put their money based on a company’s reputation, values and ethos. The CSR of a company speaks volumes about who the company is, what it believes in and how it does its business. “It’s a core element of reputation and can be used to help establish trust and goodwill amongst stakeholders.”
I first heard of CSR when I attended the UK’s first ever National CSR Awards in March. These awards celebrate business excellence and innovation within the area of CSR – the awards ranging from ‘Best Community Development Project’ to ‘Overall Excellence in CSR’ or ‘Environmental Leadership’. Each of the winning businesses, local authorities or individuals had been involved in inspiring CSR programmes – some involving the environment, some focussing on education and local community improvements. The key theme across all of the winners was the positive impact that their actions or policies had had – be that a positive environmental impact (Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets councils won for their Zero Emissions Network), or a positive impact on their local community and society (Zurich and Age UK won for their Call in Time service).
My experiences at the National CSR Awards and last week’s CSR Day taught me one key thing – CSR is about having a positive impact on society. It is about companies thinking about more than just money, and sales targets, and turnovers. It is about taking those extra steps, spending a little extra time, to think about the people around you, and the world around you, and do something (anything) that will be beneficial. “Almost half of people’s willingness to trust, admire, and feel good about a company is based on their perceptions of the corporate social responsibility of the company” – so arguably the greater the impact a company has society, the greater the company will be perceived by its customers, stakeholders and staff.
My next blog will continue exploring CSR – focussing on what I learnt from Quentin Clark, Head of Sustainability at Waitrose, during his keynote speech at Commercial Group’s CSR Day.
Until then, thank you for reading, and please do comment and let me know what you think!