The ever-changing nature of corporate social responsibility.

Monday, 12th June 2017

Wendy Bray, Fundraising Manager at Seashell Trust and passionate advocate of bringing the 3rd sector and corporate world together, reflects on the ever-changing nature of corporate social responsibility.

CSR as a buzzword has been around for a long time now. Effectively, it is generally agreed to be ‘a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment in which it operates’.

However, it is no longer just a tick box exercise or policy driven. Increasingly it is becoming a model based on social value initiatives. A recent report by the UK National Advisory Board on Impact Investing showed the new importance placed on social value.

Giving is definitely not new. In fact one of my favourite ever business quotes appeared in the first edition of Forbes: “Business was originated to produce happiness not to pile up millions”. I love that idea! Seashell Trust too, like so many charities, was founded by two businessmen back in 1823 in the Manchester Corn Exchange to provide an education for the son of a friend who was profoundly deaf.

The difference now is that companies can enable their giving to be direct, mapped and impact both enterprise and people.

CSR policy actually came to the UK in 2012 and is becoming an increasingly important objective for businesses. AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) is now embedding social value into the GM strategy using the social value act 2012 by developing a social impact framework into commissioning and procurement services. This means it is increasingly becoming part of the criteria for winning business and will continue to do so.

In particular, millennials won’t accept unethical business practices or forgive their favourite brands who have needed to be bailed out or who they discover aren’t paying tax. And the rise in ethical spending increases each year at a huge rate, equating to £38bn in 2015.

Plan A, which came about to help M&S shift from a compliance based approach to CSR to a new mindset that embraced the need to improve the environmental and social aspects of a retail business model shows how beneficial it can be. Only two years after Plan A was launched, turnover had increased by 23.5%.

Plan A also shows it isn’t only important in B2C. Companies like M&S and Unilever take CSR so seriously that their whole supply change has to adhere.

CSR is important in attracting the best talent. A recent IO study showed that having a robust CSR policy could increase staff retention by up to 50% whilst Deloitte research in 2015 showed that six out of ten millennials said that a sense of purpose was part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer.

There has been an amazing transition as CSR has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ standalone policy to an integrated strategic priority. But, where is CSR likely to go next as companies increasingly need to find that thing they stand for to make them stand out?

More and more people are looking to businesses to be responsible and provide stability in times of instability – the private sector is looked to in order to lead social change as confidence in politicians wanes. A great book that focuses on this is Alice Korngold’s, A Better World Inc. Definitely worth a read!

I think we’ll also find the CSR role becoming much more about strategy and leading change in organisations. It is now much less about being seen to be managing negative impact or as a punishment for bad business and much more about proving positive impact. This puts much more importance on the role at a senior level.

The general feeling in the market is that CSR will continue to be more than just a cheque signing and PR exercise. TAs a result, there will be increased pressure on charities and community organisations to demonstrate their social value.

Finally, companies will have to become more efficient as the population increases and resources become more finite. This is exciting as it will require much more innovation from both businesses and the charity and voluntary sector.

If you’d like to talk about CSR and the many ways your company could get involved, call Wendy Bray on 0161 610 0168 or email [email protected].