Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment in which it operates.
However the ‘community in which it operates’ is not specific. It could mean the local street, the local borough or district, the county, the region, the country or even the continent.
Many companies engage with charity giving or corporate volunteering, but this does not always benefit the local community in which they are operating, especially if it is a national or multi-national company. Such companies may donate money or resources to equally large scale charities operating on a national or international level.
In the Reigate constituency my team and I are working to encourage locally based companies to focus at least part of their social CSR towards local charities, projects and social action. Supporting the local community is not only socially responsible, but also produces a specific benefit that rebounds to direct benefit of the business.
This activity improves the local reputation of businesses, but the evidence is that it enhances staff recruitment and retention, with employees reassured that the businesses they work for also have a social conscience.
Furthermore, CSR should also improve bottom line profitability through public support of products and services delivered by a company seen to choose to give back to society directly, as well as through tax, thus improving brand acceptance.
This is not just about money, but that certainly helps when corporates provide financial support to local causes. Financial support to small local causes can make a significant impact on the cause and thus on the reputation of a company in the neighbourhood where its work or office is based.
It's not just about money, useful though that is. There are many other ways in which companies can support the local community:
- Many companies now have programmes that enable staff to take 1 to 5 paid days per year volunteering in the community. It is a way of i) improving staff morale, ii) broadening the range of skills and experience of staff, iii) developing teamwork, and iv) supporting local good causes by offering group activities or providing individual skill sharing to upskill charity personnel.
- The cost of staff and volunteer training can be prohibitive for charities and most would benefit from sharing corporate expertise in areas such as marketing, project management, HR, finance, social media and IT support, for example.
- Charities and Community groups struggle to find appropriate office, meeting and events space. Sometimes companies can fill this gap by providing use of their own surplus space to them.
- Charities and community groups generally run on a very tight budget. Any donations of necessary items such as unwanted office furniture, stationary, raffle of Christmas gifts or used computers will always be welcomed.
- Charity CEOs and staff will often benefit from having a professional mentor to guide them through the tough decisions they have to make. This is an ideal role for a professional manager or director
- Charity Boards of Directors comprise volunteer Trustees who oversee the charities operations, budget, finance and business plans. Company employees make ideal charity trustees as they can provide commercial, financial, business and private sector input and expertise into the running of the charity.
Last November I hosted a ‘Social Value’ workshop at Reigate Town Hall to bring together local companies and charities to discuss these specific issues. The benefits of doing this have already borne fruit in terms of new relationships that are beginning to develop between local companies and charities.
Furthermore, in partnership with our local CVS (Voluntary Action Reigate and Banstead – VARB) and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, we are now building a database of local opportunities that exist for companies to support the many charity, community and faith sector organisations that exist in the constituency of Reigate.
We are also working to deliver a major local corporate volunteering initiative to coincide with Volunteers week in June this year.
There is an important corporate benefit that should not be overlooked in making CSR much more local. Residents can become important supporters of a company locally, equally when those relations sour it is bad for everyone. Pfizer and Canon are examples of fine corporate engagement with the community, but Legal & General in my time as the MP has had a much more mixed record, but their support for local causes undoubtedly helped them when they had massive parking and traffic issues arising from their Kingswood site.
Finally, I am pleased to note that Surrey County Council has a created new ‘Social Value Marketplace’ web-site to help corporates and charities across the county link together and has also produced a short a guide-book to help charities and companies work together more effectively.
It seems as if this is an idea whose time has come to our Borough and County.
If you are interested to find out more about corporate social value initiatives in the constituency, please contact Gareth Owen, my Constituency Communications Manager, directly on 01737 222756 or firstname.lastname@example.org