It was interesting to read that David Cameron is putting corporate social responsibility (CSR) back on the Conservative Party’s agenda (MW January 12). He might have come to it a little late, but he couldn’t be more timely. But in talking about CSR, we should acknowledge the range of activities it covers and the benefits it can bring.
It is, as you point out, all about the way a company operates, and certainly organisations like BP represent best practice in terms of embedding responsible behaviour throughout a company’s culture. But effective CSR is also about looking outwards as much as inwards, and building mutually beneficial relationships with all stakeholders. It includes the extent to which businesses equip their suppliers, customers and other key stakeholders with the knowledge to minimize the negative, or maximise the positive, impact on society.
Supporting causes like education, for example, is an extremely effective way of doing this. The BP education programme, which extends the messages about sustainability that the company is already disseminating through its CSR strategy to tomorrow’s energy purchasers, is a prime example. EdComs also runs a range of educational projects, supported by business, which are helping to bring new experiences to students, and give them the information and skills they need to be responsible citizens and operate effectively in the workplace.
When done correctly, this generates social impact, and brings the sponsor’s expertise and brand philosophy to life, providing a valuable and credible new communication route. Given the Government’s “respect” strategy, and the emphasis that both Government and business is placing on skills, initiatives such as these are relevant in a CSR context.
It’s good to see CSR back on the agenda – let’s not limit its potential.