Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility: Are we starting from the right point?

CSR: Are we starting from the right point?
It appears we are getting used to making totally ours slogans that sound nice to everyone’s ears, build a positive, socially accepted image around our businesses, but end up being initiatives which don’t make it to the real life, and aren’t put into practice even within the company itself.

Where should all changes start with? It is clear that for a real change to happen, we must begin to promote that change from the inside out, within ourselves.

If we were talking about your company, it happens the same way: If you want to contribute to build a more just, more equal society to live in, you should begin to develop that same society you wish for within your own company. Shouldn’t you?

One of the concepts that are now being used very often, is that of "corporate social responsibility" or CSR for many. Let's start by defining what CSR is.

What is "Corporate Social Responsibility" anyway?

According to Wikipedia, is:

"Corporate social responsibility (CSR), (...), can be defined as your company’s active and voluntary contribution to improving their social, economic and environmental surroundings, (...) Corporate social responsibility goes beyond compliance of laws and regulations, assuming your company is fully respecting and complying with them (...) It would be difficult to understand a company’s efforts to develop CSR activities without first complying with responsibilities and duties within their own industry."

If you want to clearly understand it: your company has a responsibility with the society, the world, with customers, employees, suppliers, partners and shareholders, for the simple reason of being engaged in a commercial activity.

And that responsibility is not only to develop and deliver a high quality product or service. That is understood, implicit, or at least should be. It goes much further, implying even your responsibility as a company to add value to your customers, drive innovation and change at all levels, and much more.

But my question is: Why corporate social responsibility is associated with outbound activities such as caring for the environment, participating on or even providing funds for charitable foundations, and alternatives of the same nature, forgetting the one area in which the company has quite an important responsibility: their own employees?

Why CSR is associated with outbound actions your company carries out?

Isn’t it your company’s responsibility to create an adequate environment for its employees and provide them with decent working and economic conditions, within the company’s own financial capacities? Isn’t it one way to add greater value to our society?

It shouldn’t be more valuable for your company to financially support a program for the protection of dolphins in a remote country, instead of providing your employees with good, and adequate working conditions, if not to say decent, it sounds a little tougher.

Not that charitable programs are not a good idea, not at all, but your corporate social responsibility starts on a different place.

It seems the economic crisis has created an environment in which many companies forget that their first and most important responsibility is towards their employees, then to their clients and afterwards with society. Keep always in mind that, at the end of the day, your business’ performance is on the hands of employees who work for you.

In many cases, the economic crisis has become an excuse to reduce salaries, increase working hours without increasing wages, open "work for free in exchange of experience" opportunities, and even go as far as charging people for giving them an opportunity to work, completely failing to fulfill companies’ key responsibility.

Do not forget that your business strongly depends on your own employees.

And if you get it clear, then it is easy to understand how you can begin to offer great value to society. The first way is to provide value to the people who make your team, your employees, and that you can do by creating a working environment that not only meets current legislation, respect human rights, but also give each person the economic value their work is actually worth.

Even take into consideration that by doing this, you are offering your contribution to recovering from this economic crisis that afflicts so many, because you're allowing your employees to have more money to buy things and enjoy a better lifestyle.

Corporate Social Responsibility is not just a phrase that sounds good, but a real and concrete commitment of your company with the whole environment in which it operates.

Do not allow the economic downfall to transform your business in a place where nice things are said, but only said, because when it comes to what is done, awful things that we can not even mention happen.

That way, you're actually helping to create a better society, don’t you think?

Related article: Working for free, when, why and for how long?

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