17 Jun CSR Interview
When people think of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the first things that spring to mind are usually charity or philanthropic ventures undertaken as a company. Is there more to CSR than that? Has the way companies approach CSR changed in any way over the past few years?
In Malta, it seems like most companies use the terms CSR to describe sponsorship or philanthropic activities. That is a superficial way of addressing Corporate Social Responsibility – a company that is serious about CSR would seek to integrate social and environmental responsibility into the various aspects of its business, starting from its governance mechanisms, to the way it manages its workforce, onto the way it impacts the wider community and the environment.
From your experience, what can you say about the state of CSR initiatives in Malta? Is there a percentage you can name of companies that regularly take part in CSR initiatives?
There seems to be a handful of companies who regularly support good causes by providing financial or material support – I would therefore say that the practice of CSR is still in its infancy since there are only very few companies which really understand what CSR entails and look at it as a strategic way in which to enhance their operations and gain advantage over the competition. On the positive side, there seems to be a growing number of forwarding thinking business leaders who understand the benefit of ‘doing good’ and who are willing to be proactive in this regard.
Are CSR initiatives open to all companies, or do they have to be taken on by a company of a certain size in order to make an impact?
All business operators, whether large or small, have an impact on the wider community, and therefore they can all be more proactive in terms of CSR, albeit in different ways. When it comes to CSR, there is no one size fits all solution.
Are there any particular areas where there is a high frequency of CSR activities? On the other hand, are there any areas which would benefit from more CSR activity?
Rather than areas, I would tend to think that multinationals are somewhat better acquainted with the concept and have therefore advanced a little bit more in this regard. There is also the myth that only very large companies can afford to engage in CSR, when the reality is that a company cannot afford not to engage in CSR if it wants to survive. There are also many activities already being carried out in companies of different sizes and in different industries, which could be construed as CSR initiatives, but due to lack of knowledge in the subject matter are not even acknowledged as such – in turn resulting on a missed opportunity for such companies.
How does CSR add value to a company? What difference can you see between companies that have implemented CSR measures and those which have not?
Nowadays businesses are faced with many challenges, most notably the need to safeguard their brand equity, which can be negatively adversed through social media if not managed carefully; the challenge of attracting, engaging and retaining suitable and competent employees; the need to be compliant with a variety of regulations; and the need to constantly evolve and innovate – all of these challenges can be effectively addressed through a well planned and resourced CSR programme. In the medium to long term, companies which invest in CSR will become sustainable whilst the ones that don’t will fade away.
What does a company need to do to truly commit to meaningful CSR?
First of all, top management needs to take a decision to become pro-active in relation to CSR. Secondly, it needs to create internal engagement and make sure that all key players within the organization are on board. Last but not least, a CSR audit can help a company identify those areas in which it needs to implement actions in order to address shortcomings which might be hindering its overall business goals, whilst highlighting those areas which can be leveraged further in order to increase return on the ‘social investment’
How does Weave Consulting help companies with their CSR initiatives?
Our main business proposition is that of assisting companies in conducting CSR audits on the basis ISO 26000.
Can you share any of the projects that Weave has in the pipeline for 2018 or beyond?
Our current main goal is that of increasing awareness and providing education in relation to CSR – and in fact we will shortly be conducting a short course for business leaders in order to further help them understand this concept and how they can gain from it on a personal and organisational level. We will also be working with a select few companies in order to build a local business case for CSR – highlighting measurable benefits that such companies would have gained as a result of a well managed CSR programme. Finally, we are looking at how to better leverage ICT in order to achieve these goals.