Blog Articles

By - Staff Editor

Published : 29-11-2018

Slavefreetrade and corporate social responsibility

There are just so many ways collaborating with an organisation like ours helps your business but, in fact, that collaboration – done well - can also contribute to your bottom line, and can help shape the function and larger success of your business. Most of what we are talking about falls under the oft-relegated area of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Sadly, this is considered an option, an add-in, a fluffy decoration or, by some, not useful at all.

CSR can not only help you achieve a better business overall, but it can actively contribute to reducing the incidence of modern slavery in your supply chains because great culture is contagious for business partners.

The evidence is now clear. The judge’s decisions are in; good CSR impacts positively, and bad CSR impacts negatively, your bottom line. CSR of the sort slavefreetrade brings matters.

It is just up to you if that is a positive or a negative for your business. It’s a choice.

The first things to be said is that customers are watching. Various pieces of survey data show 67% of people prefer to work at a company that's socially responsible. 52% of people check the packaging to ensure that the company is following sustainability practices. 55% will pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive environmental and social impact. 52% will make at least one purchase in the next six months from one or more social responsible companies. And 67% would not buy a product they know has modern slavery behind it. 80% of consumers are more concerned about human impact, like modern slavery, than other social/societal impacts of business.

So, the first great reason to have great social responsibility is that consumers are watching this. They care about it and in dramatically rising numbers. Ethical consumerism is growing at a vastly faster rate than the broader consumption.

A lot of companies are now starting to take CSR more seriously, and perhaps the increasing anxiety and watchfulness of the customer might be one.

But how do we move to a more socially responsible frame for our work.

CSR activities have on a company's three critical internal processes.

Pushing the trend that more companies are taking CSR seriously is this idea that corporate social responsibility doesn't float free in a company. It's not just the department where one or two people are making grants. It is, and it requires, something much deeper. CSR is something that connects to core functions within the company.

There are three major areas where it's connecting laterally in a business, making the entire organisation more robust and more successful.

The first is the area of human resources. CSR is great for employee recruitment, retention, and motivation.

We know this from numerous studies that companies that have positive CSR programs, and that have very progressive policies in terms of their treatment of employees, they do better at all range of HR, human resource challenges.

Second, we know that corporate social responsibility interacts very directly with sales and marketing, and that it can shape the financial outcomes of those critical functions within firms.

Cause-related marketing, consumer goodwill, all types of benefits are, are generated when companies engage in CSR work and connected to sales and marketing initiatives.

Finally, there's a third area, operations management and overall enterprise efficiency, and that really plugs into the whole sustainability question, which is if firms can get better at sustainability practices, they can and often do see major contributions to management and efficiency of the overall company.

So, let's look at each one of these areas in turn, look at a couple of examples in each, and see how CSR actually does connect to the core work of a company, and how it can actually contribute substantially to the bottom line, above and beyond the fact that we know the customers and consumers care about these, these practices.

CSR and HR

So, in the first area of human resources, and how CSR changes both the culture and the practices of companies to be able to attract and keep employees, there are at least four levels at which CSR has an impact.

On the front end, strong CSR programs attract people, particularly younger workers. Millennials care about what a company stands for, and how it treats its employees, and so CSR practices that are focused on employee volunteering, employee engage with the community, they're going to be very attractive draws for workers, particularly younger workers, but not even limited to them.

Second, CSR helps with retention. It reduces ‘Pers tempo’ often now called ‘churn’. Employees that are connected to their community, they're engaged in work outside the company feel a greater sense of, of belonging, and connection to the company itself, and this will reduce people leaving, and the need for endless hiring and training.

Third, CSR can motivate employees in important ways. Employees that are part of a company that's committed to CSR are going to come to work with a different attitude of more profound commitment to the work at hand, and this can pay off in big ways for a company.

And then finally, culture. Culture can change inside a company, and CSR can be a key instrument for changing culture, and the way in which staff and workers inside a company interact with each other.

So, let's look at some examples from this area of HR, and how HR is shaped by CSR practices.

One of the first to mention is Salesforce, the big provider of customer relationship software management tools. At Salesforce, every employee gets 56 total hours, that's seven days off for volunteering. If they complete the seven days of volunteering within a year, Salesforce throws in $1000 grant that they can donate to a non-profit of their choice. So not only does Salesforce allow their employees to volunteer, and give them paid time off, but they actually have a matching program that allows employees to direct funds to the organisation that they care most about. Salesforce have been very active in whole bunch of areas, but one, one area's really stood out is the area looking at leukemia, and lymphoma, where one of the employees of Salesforce was stricken by this disease, and hundreds of employees participated in a light the night walk, and they raised over a million dollars through this process.

Employees can feel a sense of, of attachment, can feel a sense of belonging, if they are encouraged to be part of something greater than themselves.

At Deloitte, the leading, one of the leading management consulting firms, employees also get 48 hours of paid time off to do whatever they feel they need to do to connect, and, and contribute to their community. Deloitte also organizes an Impact Day, where people can work together on a shared project, and take entire day to work with co-workers on getting something done in the community, and Deloitte also offers a very significant set of pro bono services to non-profits (like us!), where their management consulting services are given the way to organisations that couldn't otherwise afford them. And through all these efforts Deloitte was able to, to create a culture in which employees feel that the company stands for something more than just racking up billable hours.

One final example of how CSR can connect to the human resource function of companies is Timberland. Timberland is a manufacturer of footwear and clothing, and it has a long history of CSR activities across a broad range of areas, but let's just focus at least initially on this question of how its CSR practices shape its HR. Jeff Schwartz, the former Timberland CEO once said, "employees don't stay with the company because of benefits. It's the long-term relationship building that attracts people to stay," and by that he meant that you can shower employees with well-defined benefits and, and opportunities, but what really matters to them is something deeper, it's a connection, and so, ab intio, Timberland has sought to figure out ways to make their employees feel a deeper, more visceral connection, both to the community and to the company.

One way they've done it is to create a whole series of engagement opportunities for their employees. One of the most famous ones was their multiyear, maybe decade-long engagement with one large non-profit called City Year. There, they got their, their employees deep into the service work of this non-profit, they provided all kinds of, of community engagement opportunities for people at the, from the top all the way down through the organisation.

And at, at Timberland, they have a saying which is, "service is part of our DNA." A belief in the power of people to transform their communities is one of our core values. And they actually enact that through a whole series of programs. They have an employee volunteer program that gives up to 40 hours of time for community service. They give their staff an opportunity to engage in a whole series of special two-day events, if they don't have an organisation that they want to volunteer for, Timberland will help them find it. And they have an Earth Day, and server, Serve-apalousa event that draws in huge numbers of employees. So you can act individually as an employee, or as part of a group.

What they found was that 70% of employees at Timberland engage in some form of community service. In case you don’t know, that's a VERY high number. 73,000 hours of service were delivered, 76% of employees volunteered at least one hour. 29% of employees use their all their available service hours (pretty low, which usually means there are some structural barriers to be overcome). And 76% of employees, and 24% of non-Timberland employees, these are people they work with, took part in their service events.

It's also a way of drawing in their providers, and their supply chain partners. Timberland has engaged in a big survey recently. They found 67% of their employees say that their company's commitment to the community played a strong role in their decision to apply for a position at Timberland, that's a very big number. A contagion from a firm like Timberland comes both from the external perception that they are out to do good, and have strong values that they live and breathe, but also from internal perceptions. Your staff work with business partners. Their sense that the company lives and breathes values is communicated in words and actions in those interactions. Business partners see you doing good, the staff of those partners want the same. They will agitate to make it happen, and that can have a strongly beneficial impact on their corporate culture, including making them more responsible for and caring about the social impact of their supply chain.

Two thirds of the people working at Timberland feel that the company's position and, on, and, on corporate social responsibility is a key factor in their decision to actually come to the company. So, Timberland has worked for many years on this question of how do we engage our employees with the community, finding ways to connect them to causes, and help them find this, this meaning in work outside of the company, and they've done it because they know that it actually has real effects on how their employees view the company, and how they feel about working at Timberland.

Culture is something that Timberland has really tried to create around this concept of service. Stepping back from Timberland, and ask some of the bigger questions around HR, and how corporate social responsibility affects human resources.

So, we agree there are a lot of ways it can possibly go. It can go from simply shaping volunteer opportunities, providing work hours that are flexible, childcare, on-site support services, health fitness programs for employees, personal management systems, community involvement, a whole range of possible ways in which employees can be treated in a way that makes them feel connected, and part of something bigger, that the company cares about them, and connects them to the world outside of the company. Bottom line: if the company shows it gives a damn about social impact, then so do the staff.

But the big question you may ask is does it really matter?

Does it really work? The evidence is, again, pretty clear.

CSR does ramp up the ability of a company to attract good people on the recruitment side. CSR activities will bring people into contact with millennials, who are desperately looking for companies that stand for something more than just the bottom line. So, at the front end, CSR has the power to bring in employees, and be a differentiator among employees, and employers. Companies that have CSR have an advantage when it comes to attracting the best talent, because they stand for something bigger, and that is, that can be a deciding factor.

When it comes to retention, CSR also has a proven track record of keeping people motivated and connected, and keeping them in their jobs, and there, and thereby reducing the cost of hiring and training new employees. This churn we mentioned earlier. Employees that are part of a company feels responsible and caring, are going to stay there, and they're going to be deeply committed to the company in ways that are, that cannot be captured just by salary and compensation practices alone.

Finally, when it comes to motivation, CSR also has a powerful role to play. CSR can bring employees to work with a greater sense of enthusiasm and commitment. Motivation for all sorts of work can come from external influences; doing things that matter outside work, or for work, also impact motivation inside it. When an employee engages with the community, finds a connection to a non-profit or to a cause that matters to them, they're going to come to work feeling that they're part of something bigger, and their commitment and motivation is going to rise.

Across a whole bunch of different dimensions and a bunch of different practices, what we can see is corporate social responsibility can do more than just help the community. It can in fact contribute to a core function, which is the management of people and human resources.

Why would you not want that?

Contact slavefreetrade for CSR partnering, volunteer programmes for your humans, and bringing purpose to life in your company in a way that benefits you across the board.