Previously, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was viewed as a casual concept within businesses and comprised of turning off a few extra lights and engaging in occasional charity work. Nowadays, the bar has been raised entirely and companies are investing an increased amount of time and money to implement more sophisticated CSR notions. But what is driving this?
A variety of factors, ranging from public demand to competitors’ actions to scrutiny from stakeholders has caused companies to be far more responsive in their approach to CSR, as many would like to present themselves as environmentally and socially responsible as possible.
The benefits of CSR to a company are still disputed. Advocates for the notion contend that businesses increase long-term profits by having a functioning CSR programme in operation, whilst those in disagreement will argue that the time spent focused on such activities is time spent away from the businesses core economic role. Many engage themselves in altruistic activity, just because they think it is the “right thing to do”, but economic management and consumer demand are, arguably, the biggest influences.
Having become a far more sophisticated movement, CSR is leaning towards a focus on offering training and apprenticeships to a broader range of backgrounds; creating a stepping stone into work. Last year marked the first year The SR Group affiliated with the Government Apprentice Scheme, resulting in a permanent hire into one of our support functions. For a business, schemes like this this can be a solution to addressing skills shortages in their own workplace; a consequential mutual benefit. This idea is becoming even more established in the larger, global organisations. In 2013, Barclay's won an award for its youth employment initiative, having recruited 1,000 young people – not in education, employment or training – onto their extensive apprenticeship programme.
There are arguments that CSR should be viewed as another key branch to a company’s strategy plans, especially when it is clear how much investment has been made in the top firms.
Commercial Director for The SR Group, Anthony Davies, has been managing bids and overseeing all business pitches for over 10 years and in this time has witnessed a dramatic change in how CSR is viewed. “Gone are the days when clients were only looking for equal opportunity and health and safety policies. In the past few years, the number of questions surrounding our corporate social responsibility arises in almost every tender we work on. Clients are now interested in what we do and what we can provide and the topic forms a large part of their questioning.”
It is evident that engaging in CSR activity is not only a benefit to a business, but also to the individuals involving themselves. James Baker, Director of Professional Services at Frazer Jones, has been working with law firms alongside a well-known initiative set in a number law firms, aiming to broaden access to the legal profession. Consultants within The SR Group are encouraged to volunteer their time to workshops with students, offering practical advice and support surrounding individuals’ CVs and professional applications. “This particular initiative is a fantastic and hugely rewarding initiative to be part of. I loved being part of it and felt very lucky to have met and worked with some brilliant people with a great sense of humour.”
Whilst economics are still important, the increasing concern of social and environmental bearings mean that businesses need to appreciate that the global landscape is changing and it is obvious that in today’s world, those businesses that venture outside of their original drivers and consider the impact they are having around them, are the ones that succeed.
For more information on The SR Group’s corporate responsibility programme, click here.