27 Oct CSR for growing companies: is it worth it?
Ireland’s economy is growing and the speed of change is dramatic. From technology to financial services, the economic landscape presents tremendous opportunities for both small- and large-scale businesses looking to expand. As they focus on growth, it’s understandable why some CEOs might choose to move CSR down the list of priorities.
Inevitably, CSR activities require both financial and time commitments. When viewed in isolation, these can be seen as yet another cost to the budget-conscious CEO. But from our perspective in Ricoh, we prefer to ask: What would it cost not to have a CSR strategy?
CSR is becoming increasingly important to employees. Today’s young workforce care about the environment and future, as well as the impact they have on them. So, as Generation Y & Z not only enter the workforce, but also start to fill more senior and management positions, CSR is becoming critical to any growing company. If you want to attract the right kind of people into your organisation, you need a sustainability ethos. We have gotten to the point where without it, I expect you will struggle to attract and retain talent.
At Ricoh, we take our CSR efforts very seriously. Like most people, we have a basic human desire to help those less fortunate and look after our planet. But we have also found that putting an emphasis on CSR has a direct effect on employee engagement. At Ricoh Ireland, we give employees two paid volunteering days per year. They get to choose what they would like to do with that time and it makes them feel involved and listened to. Even initiatives as simple as that can change the entire office culture to be more positive, proactive and team-oriented.
Just as employees want to work for a like-minded company, businesses want to work with like-minded businesses. Increasingly, companies are looking to partner with organisations that have accreditations such as the ISO 14001, relating to environmental management, or the ISO 26000 guidance standard, for social responsibility. They’re no longer just asking how you perform as a company, but how your entire supply chain is performing, too.
A lot of the tenders that come across my desk nowadays ask specific questions about CSR policy and accreditations; it’s a common theme when you’re entering bids. Of course, businesses examine an entire range of factors when they’re looking to partner with another company, but CSR policy can be what gets your company’s bid over the line. Sometimes, it can even be what gets you sitting at the table in the first place.
Business Working Responsibly Mark
At Ricoh Ireland, we always ensure that our CSR activity is at the forefront of everything we do. For that reason, we have just attained the Business Working Responsibility Mark for a second time from Business in the Community Ireland. We are the only company in our industry to have achieved the Mark and it reflects the great work that we and our staff do to ensure we are constantly giving back to the world around us.
Recently, through a number of group fundraising initiatives, we raised in excess of €2,500 for LauraLynn Children’s Hospice. who were nominated by Ricoh staff as our charity of the year. We also partnered with St Kevin’s College, a local school, as part of the Schools Business Partnership programme. This project is aimed at introducing children in the local community to the world of work, encouraging them to complete their education.
Companies looking to kick off their own CSR efforts should start by setting out their aspirations. Working with BITCI to achieve the Mark will help you to assess your current position. It will highlight the positive things you are already doing and also indicate areas for improvement. This will help you come up with a universal vision or mission statement. Once you know your goals, you can develop a strategy that will get you to where you want to be.
Maintaining focus on that strategy can be difficult – particularly for companies like us on a strong growth curve. At Ricoh Ireland, we review our CSR activities on a monthly basis, as part of the overall company balance scorecard. It’s reviewed using the same methodology as our revenue, profits and service levels. Each month, we can then see how CSR is affecting all areas of the business, ascertain if we are on track for our targets and decide if there is more we need to do.
The key to implementing a great CSR strategy is not being too focused on the upfront cost, because you will get a return on all of them and more. CSR affects how people feel about the company, while boosting efficiency along with staff motivation and engagement. All of these things should be offset against any costs incurred – because you will almost certainly find that you’re getting multiple returns on your investment.
Here I am speaking with BITC about what the Business in the Community Mark did for us at Ricoh Ireland.