Published on in Reshaping Business

This month was the annual BBC event to raise money for Children in Need. My company, like many others, did our bit – we undertook lots of individual fundraising activities and we helped man the donation telephone lines in our Manchester call centre.

pudsey children in need bbc csrWe’re not alone of course – thousands of organisations encourage their staff to support such initiatives, or a similar chosen charity partner. The cynics of us often only see Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a way of boosting reputation in a competitive marketplace – almost as an extension to sales or marketing. Certainly a good CSR programme does boost reputation – but is there really more value to having a strong CSR programme?

I have had a wonderful opportunity to assess the real CSR value for myself, having worked for an employer that 5 years ago had a loose collection of activities that might come under the label ‘CSR’ to a point this year where we were awarded ‘Most Responsible Business of 2015’ by the leading UK CSR body, Business in the Community (BITC).

The first thing to say is that for me, it certainly seems like a much more appealing place to work – which brings the first real benefit – attracting and keeping staff. From an employee perspective I encounter our CSR programme every working day.

Be it the really strong focus on inclusion, the support networks for those with disabilities and other working challenges, the elected and consulted ‘voice of the employee’ and of course, the many charity events that are supported.

Many of you might say that any good employer would offer those things as part of a strong HR function – and you would be right – but the difference for me is the sheer extent of these activities and that it’s the employees that drive them mostly, not the company. We are encouraged and enabled to make these things happen ourselves.

As employees, we are also actively encouraged to support our UK business community. We are a big company, and as such have the opportunity to take on people and give them training and experience which can benefit other UK businesses as a whole down-stream. Our graduate recruitment programme has been voted by the grads themselves as one of the top in the country, and we also have a very successful apprenticeship scheme.

Fujitsu benefits from growing and keeping this talent; others also benefit when employees, as always, decide to move on (a bit of staff turnover is healthy!).

We are also encouraged to take secondments to help local businesses and business communities with knowledge gained in the broad corporate world – to help make them successful (you can read more here). In return, the company gets employees back with deep insight into the challenges faced by small to medium size businesses– helpful to us in developing suitable products and services that fit the way they work.

One of the hardest tasks was implementing a comprehensive ethical trading approach that goes well beyond the usual ‘bribery and corruption’ rules. It’s designed to make sure we do the right things in our trading with both suppliers and clients.

The benefit to us is stronger relationships, happier customers – with a perspective that is geared towards long-term success rather than short term gain. We would much rather say ‘no’ and walk away from something that we know will fail, than take the money and worry about the next deal.

And of course the fundamentals of firmly believing and paying our taxes where we get our revenue (in the UK). That gives us a seat at the table in discussions on how to make business more successful in the UK, and improves our relationship with UK PLC businesses – our customers. My family and I, as beneficiary of UK taxes, value this as well!

For me implementing a strong, comprehensive CSR programme is definitely worth doing – hopefully you are already experiencing it yourself with your employer. If not, encourage it – you as an employee need to be part of making it happen or it will just be a marketing veneer. It’s just a shame you only get to wear your Pudsey ears once a year!

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