So what is this CSR thing that we keep being asked for in tenders? It can seem such an intangible thing to write about so it’s easy to land up waffling about “doing the right thing” and “putting something back”. As a result CSR policies are often half a page of meaningless text about charitable giving.
Many of my recruitment agency clients tell me that they are an SME and as such don’t have the resources or finances to do much on the CSR front which means they don’t have anything really worthwhile to talk about. However I’ve recently completed a project which has really helped me to nail down some specifics about how to approach CSR and what to include on this rather amorphous subject.
What is CSR?
Rather than recreate the wheel, I thought I would ask Google and this is what I came up with:
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to business practices involving initiatives that benefit society.
- Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as that of the local community and society at large.
- Corporate Social Responsibility – a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates.
So the long and short of it is it’s all about “doing the right thing” with regard to the economy, the environment and the community.
But what does this actually mean in practice?
Working through a Local Authority’s Charter for Social Responsibility and Action Plan really helped me put some tangible stuff onto paper and get my head round how even very small businesses can make a difference. The Charter that I worked on was divided into 6 principle areas, each with a definition. Suppliers were then required to demonstrate specifically how they were contributing in each of these areas including:
- Local employment which involves improving employment opportunities for local people through training, apprenticeships and offering employment to the local workforce. Evidence to demonstrate participation in this area includes the number of new jobs created, apprenticeships, intern placements and work placement hours; number of hours spent supporting people back to work with coaching, mentoring and training; and % of staff who live within 10/20/30 miles of their workplace.
- Local procurement which focuses on supporting local businesses and building a local supply chain. Evidence to demonstrate participation in this area includes % of your spend with local suppliers; ensuring you advertise opportunities to local businesses (e.g. using “finditinbirmingham” or equivalent websites); % of spend with SMEs; and % of spend with social enterprises and charities.
- Partners in communities which is all about providing both practical and financial support to the local community. Evidence to demonstrate participation in this area includes how you support schools (e.g. through becoming a Governor or providing reading, mentoring, career advice, CV writing etc); providing paid time off for voluntary work; listing the value and recipients of charitable of donations or sponsorships; specifying the value of spend with social enterprises; providing details about any disadvantaged individuals, community organisations and community projects supported.
- Good employer which requires you to demonstrate commitment to supporting staff development and welfare. Evidence to demonstrate participation in this area includes specifying how much you spend on training per employee; offering flexible working hours; accreditations you hold (e.g. IIP, Positive about Disabled People etc); details of policies such as Whistle Blowing and Modern Slavery you have in place; listing your rates of staff turnover/sickness/absence; confirming you pay the living wage and analysing employee diversity.
- Green & sustainable which focuses on evidence about how you protect the environment, minimise waste and reduce energy consumption. Evidence to demonstrate participation in this area includes your targets for CO2 and waste reduction; how you reduce waste to landfill and electricity/gas/water usage; and having an environmental management system in place.
- Ethical procurement which looks at ensuring high ethical standards within your own company and supply chain. Evidence to demonstrate participation in this area includes confirming the % of your suppliers that are paid within 30 days; detailing and defining the % of spend on ethically sourced products (e.g. fair-trade goods); specifying how you audit suppliers on ethical practices; and having an ethical procurement policy in place.
Now I’m not for a moment saying that your CSR Policy should just list these, but they do give some ideas on how to make your contribution more tangible. Some further food for thought on what to include:
- Most recruitment agencies provide job search help, CV writing training, interview training and career advice without even thinking about it.
- Many have staff who are involved in community activities – scouts, brownies, youth football teams, school Governors etc.
- Lots have charitable giving policies such as match funding sponsorship up to a certain value, giving limited paid time off work to undertake voluntary work or even donating a set % of margin from key accounts back to the communities local to them.
- Perhaps you have staff who help out with local youth groups or give talks in schools?
- You can also confirm your compliance with the ETI Base Code and legislation such as the Equality Act 2010, the Human Rights Act and the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
So haul out your Corporate Social Responsibility Policy – blow the dust of it, and have a brainstorm with your team. You’ll be amazed at what you “put back” and just how much easier it is now to answer those awkward CSR tender questions.