The cultural value of Corporate Social Responsibility

I’ve been following the reaction received to the government’s work programme to support unemployed people into work. I hope that the recent articles in the press regarding work experience programmes do not put companies off their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. CSR schemes can range from being environmentally responsible to charitable events such as fun runs to backing the work programme and actively engaging with the long term unemployed. They provide organisations with an excellent opportunity to take tangible actions to develop their employee brand that encourages commitment to the organisation. If done as part of the people development strategy it can support the development of the employer brand and vision. For example, one of the unique selling points for Innocent drinks is their high engagement with sustainability and ‘proving there is a profit in ethics’, which has helped them to become a Top 100 employer.

An organisation that seeks to do something of benefit for their employees, potential employees or to their wider community brings cultural benefits to the organisation. The benefits can range from bringing people together and enabling informal networking to less quantifiable benefits such as being recognised as a good place to work which may impact on retention and talent acquisition. The organisation that engages in CSR to support long term unemployed people into work starts to create an employer brand of social responsibility and an organisation that will be known for giving people a chance. To then give those same people appropriate development opportunities and manage their career starts to impact on talent management programs both for those employees and those who want to be associated with that type of organisation. The CSR scheme that is involved in fun runs such as JP Morgan Chase challenge encourages behaviour that supports involvement beyond the daily tasks of the workplace. Employees are able to develop their informal networks with communication less dependent on hierarchies which creates a social environment encouraging workplace friendships. Such CSR schemes promote the organisation positively and add to the employer brand and values of the organisation. Indeed, much research has been done suggesting that ‘Generation Y’ actively look for employers with good CSR schemes and are not solely motivated by their pay.

CSR schemes can only support an organisation’s culture, they do not define it. Before embarking on a CSR scheme it is essential to understand the organisation’s current culture and what is appropriate for the organisation. This can be done through a range of interventions such as day in the life case studies, interviews, surveys and focus groups with staff and customers. Without direction and a culture strategy a CSR scheme is in danger of being isolated and received as ‘just another scheme’ that has limited value to the employee. By not managing organisational culture, organisations limit their employee brand and limit the benefits associated with CSR. Likewise, they are not able to instil and support positive behaviours as they do not know what the desired behaviour would look like. How many times, have you heard people say in your organisation that it is bureaucratic, or this is how it’s always been done here or don’t ask that person as you can’t get them to help you? It is essential that for CSR to be more than a display of ethics it needs to operate within a defined framework of the organisation’s culture. Each organisation needs to define its own vision and brand and assess what the gaps are between its vision and reality. CSR can then be used as a business tool to actively bridge that gap to create a culture that supports the organisation’s vision.

Capgemini as an employer supports the Princes Trust which has meant a lot of fun runs and other forms of exercise. I confess that running (unless it’s for a bus) is not my thing so instead I chose to work with local schools last year and provide them with an introduction to the different work that we do. This gave me the opportunity to meet other people in the business, give back to the local community and have some fun at work.