Tobin Murphy-Coles, CEO at Amba, a tech-powered HR consultancy with values at its heart, explores the risks businesses run if they fail to prioritise CSR, and offers his advice on making real change, regardless of your company’s size and budget.
Post-COVID, there’s a growing desire amongst employees for the organisations they work for to be forces for good in the world. In fact, our own research at Amba shows that three-in-five prospective workers now look for employers who share their values, while a further 63% believe employers should try to be sustainable in everything they do.
It’s little wonder what’s driving this urgency; whether it be the carbon impact of travelling to meetings or the use of pension schemes that don’t invest ethically, business is a major contributor to the climate crisis, and the reliance on consumers to undo this damage is nothing short of morally corrupt.
It isn’t enough to make a token gesture. Whatever a business does, they need to do it whole- heartedly. Of the two-in-five (42%) workers who told us they don’t feel their current employer shares their values, 58% are considering leaving in the next 12 months. It seems staff won’t tolerate half- measures when it comes to CSR. People will walk if the appropriate effort isn’t being put in.
We’re also seeing a huge uptick in the number of clients interrogating future suppliers’ CSR policies during the procurement process and making decisions based on this factor.
With pressure mounting from all sides and the introduction of formal legislation that mandates CSR commitments looking likely, investing in CSR is no longer something to be delegated or considered only when it’s convenient. This is becoming a key issue, with very real commercial stakes.
What difference can a smaller business make?
Employees and clients alike are unlikely to accept limited resources as an excuse for smaller
businesses to shrug off environmental and social commitments.
That doesn’t need to be as daunting as it might sounds though. Having less bureaucracy to deal with actually means smaller organisations often stand a better chance of quickly making impactful change than a large corporation with countless departments to rally and coordinate. So while there’s no excuse for inaction, there’s also a rare opportunity for SMEs to stand out against larger competitors.
At Amba, we’re increasingly seeing start-ups addressing these issues off the bat, setting themselves up with strong commitments to CSR from day one in order to achieve an edge against better-known firms. It’s a wise strategy, and one that any fledgling business should certainly consider.
How do you get started?
However intimidating a CSR initiative might seem, the worst course of action you could take is to do nothing. The only way to progress is to hit the ground running and try to learn as you go.
Following an established framework, such as net zero, B-Corp or an industry-specific organisation like
Tech Zero, is a good way to find your feet. They’ll provide what you need to get started and help identify the key areas you should focus on. B-Corp assessment is a particularly good way of measuring your progress, as well as the work you still need to do. Once you’ve met the minimum requirements and achieved B-Corp status, you can aim higher, improving your score and expanding into new areas.
Following a framework also means you aren’t doing it alone. For instance, B-Corp offers an incredibly supportive community, where you can ask questions and share ideas. Collectively, we’re all trying to work towards a common good, so having that sounding board can be incredibly helpful.
How long does a CSR strategy take?
Let’s be clear: There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting CSR right. It requires a time commitment, often demanding months of work. But when the consequences of not doing it include losing customers and staff, and with legislation likely to be imposed on businesses in the near future, the investment is clearly worthwhile. I’d urge all business leaders to take action now, at your own pace, rather than finding yourself wrestling later with a tight deadline.
This commitment should also be shared amongst the team. Your CSR strategy may require support from several departments, including finance and legal. The heavy lifting shouldn’t be dropped onto the HR Director’s shoulders; get the entire team involved and invested.
What strategy is best?
There are CSR strategies out there to suit organisations of all sizes and values. For instance, I have always been conscious of Amba’s effect on the environment. It seemed natural, therefore, that one of our key CSR goals should be to offset our carbon emissions. To achieve this, we launched The
Lumina Forest Project, a reforestation programme in Madagascar, designed to repair damaged habitats by planting upwards of 100,000 trees per year. Launched in partnership with Furthr, we’re inviting our clients and partners to participate as well to maximise our potential impact.
That said, we also believe in supporting social causes. With that in mind, we choose a charity partner to sponsor each year, organising fundraising activities that the whole team can get involved in.
There were two considerations which ultimately led us to choose these activities. The first was that they aligned with our values, and the second was that they have the potential to do some genuine good. That, for me, is the most important thing for any business preparing a CSR initiative. We are all responsible for fighting the climate crisis, which means a simple PR stunt won’t do. Whether it be environmental or social, choose a cause that has some relevance to your business and identify a meaningful strategy.
We, as businesses, have the power to bring about change. The question, then, is why wouldn’t we?