Turning social impact into commercial benefit07 Nov 2013
Judges share insights on how to win with Corporate Citizenship at Business4Better UK
The legacy of the financial crisis and the collapse of major high street retailers is a loss of confidence and trust in business. Those restoring that confidence and trust have realised that business needs a social license to operate – re-connecting with local communities through collaboration and co-creation.
While many businesses claim to be good corporate citizens, they risk further damage to the perception of business if it’s exposed as mere lip service.
The National Business Awards created the Corporate Citizenship Award to celebrate the organisations that have embedded its principles, aligned them with commercial objectives, and achieved a positive and lasting impact on the community. Bringing their corporate values to life through a range of social impact initiatives, these organisations are attracting and developing talent, demonstrating the value of products and services, and boosting brand equity.
Business for better UK
With the ten finalists of the inaugural Corporate Citizenship Award due to be announced on 16th July, two judges from the National Business Awards offered insights on how to measure success and authenticity at Business4Better – a two-day event bringing together business and the voluntary sector to connect, share and learn.
Setting the scene with his definition of Corporate Citizenship, Moodscope Chairman Adrian Hosford described it as “behaving in a responsible and ethical way and striving continuously to have as positive and sustainable an impact as possible on society with your main business.”
Fellow judge and champion of cause-related marketing, Marjorie Thompson of C-3i, focused on the benefit of authentic investment. “Enlightened companies are realising that good corporate citizenship is good for business,” said the Co-Author of ‘The New Brand Spirit: How Communicating Sustainability Builds Brands, Reputations and Profits’. “Engaging with stakeholders—employees and suppliers as well as legislators and shareholders - can actually lead to innovation and increased profits. Box-ticking and minimal compliance will be exposed in today’s digital world; so it’s worth taking the time to get things right.”
Addressing the most common misconceptions about corporate citizenship, both Marjorie and Adrian agreed that it’s no longer about philanthropic or charitable activity.
“When CR is in the heart and bloodstream of the main business, when all employees are actively seeking to maximize the positive impact in their day to day business, and all stakeholders are actively engaged and motivated to help – that’s embedded corporate citizenship,” said Adrian who, as the former Director of Corporate Responsibility for BT, turned an annual investment of £25m into £365m of cost savings - and sales tenders of over £2bn requiring a strong CSR component.
Commenting on the most tangible and measurable benefits CR can deliver to the business, Adrian said the most obvious is cost savings and new revenues but it’s easier to track improvements in perception and loyalty among employees, customers and suppliers. “Winning awards also helps to demonstrate excellence, which in turn boosts corporate reputation, reassures a range of stakeholders and helps to attract talent,” said Adrian, who won sector leader eight years in a row for BT in the Dow Jones Global Sustainability Index, the Queen’s Award for Sustainability, and the BITC Company of the Year for positive impact on society.
“Case after case illustrates reduced costs, product innovation, reduction in absenteeism and favourable consumer response resulting in increased sales,” added Marjorie, commenting on the many examples she had researched for her book The New Brand Spirit. “Some of the more ambitious organisations have established environmental goals going beyond carbon neutrality which have a net positive impact on society as reflected in recycling, packaging and waste disposal statistics. In reputational terms, investment decisions made by fund managers reflect significant rewards for those companies who ‘walk the talk’, thus demonstrating increased shareholder value. As governments realise that businesses can partner with them to communicate important messages and increase public awareness, this additionally offers companies an opportunity to influence the legislative agenda in a transparent way that is beneficial to all.”
Closing the session with thoughts on what they will be looking for from finalists for this year's Corporate Citizenship Award, Adrian said: “I want to see evidence of embeddedness, link and fit with the main business, impact measures and long-term plans and targets.”
“I’ll be looking for creativity and thinking outside the box; unusual ideas and novel approaches which are practical yet inspiring,” said Marjorie, citing an anecdotal example. “I heard some time ago that an energy provider in the Scandinavian countries had installed ‘SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lights on buses and at bus stops. The incidence of depression is particularly high in the Nordic countries and light treatment in hospitals could not possibly reach all those who would benefit from it. This form of community investment not only assisted in achieving public health goals, but had complete brand synergy as ‘lighting up peoples’ lives’ was actually integral to their core business.”
The cross-section of organisations shortlisted for this year’s Corporate Citizenship Award, from SMEs to large corporate, proves that any type and size of business can achieve a social license to operate by demonstrating meaningful long term impact in their communities.
Finalists for the inaugural Corporate Citizenship Award will be announced on 16th July and profiled in a dedicated supplement produced by the Daily Telegraph on 28th September. Winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at the Grosvenor, Park Lane on 12th November. To reserve advertising space in this year’s Finalist Supplement or book your places at this year’s ceremony call Anthony Akoto on 020 7234 8710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .