Corporate responsibility is something that any company should take extremely seriously. Identifying your corporate responsibility and implementing changes where necessary will not only strengthen your brand but more importantly, it will boost employee morale and make a significant difference to the planet.
Here we will discuss what corporate responsibility is, some examples and finally some of the leading companies that are making colossal commitments to improving the world around them. Actively making change when it comes to your corporate responsibility should be just as much of a priority as any of your other business goals, if not more, in 2021.
What exactly is corporate responsibility?
The main meaning of corporate responsibility is proving that you are a business with concerns much wider than profits. You care about your employees, the environment and every single person in your supply chain and importantly, you treat them with respect. In every business decision you make, you should consider whether you are trading ethically. That means considering the social and environmental impact of each thing you do.
The purpose of this is to highlight that businesses should seek to take positive social action in all areas of their business. Not only will everyone involved in your company benefit, but your brand itself will, as corporate responsibility is a huge buzz word at the minute. If you can prove that you care about more than your profit margin, you will build a positive brand that people will be far more inclined to buy from.
Examples of corporate responsibility
Trading fairly is all about ensuring that people are treated well and paid fairly for the services they provide, particularly for workers in the developing world who are often exploited. Conventional trading has consistently resulted in completely unacceptable practices which take advantage of the most vulnerable. The Fairtrade initiative helps to protect people who are in need in order to make significant change.
Examples of this would include obtaining supplies in an ethical way, paying employees well, providing good working conditions and being aware of not only your own behaviours but also how your suppliers behave and whether they are protecting their staff. It is a rigorous process to become Fairtrade certified, but even without going through it you should do everything in your power to make sure that you are always prioritising the welfare of the people involved in your company in any way.
Reducing environmental impact
Another vital element of your corporate responsibility is to reduce your impact on the environment. This includes being as energy efficient as possible, utilising recycled products, reviewing consumption strategies, allowing flexible working, utilising green energy, offering incentives for green commutes, going paperless, using non-toxic products and reducing travel as much as possible.
Not only are these things fantastic for the environment, but it will also benefit the company financially in most cases. You should also look to introduce business recycling initiatives to reduce your costs and also to protect the environment. Start by considering the environment in every business decision you make and then work to rectify any non-environmentally friendly practices from the past. Corporate responsibility is a constant learning curve, so focusing on what you can change in the future is a good place to start.
Giving to charity
Taking an interest in charities as a business and doing what you can to help them is a fantastic initiative that should be a part of every company’s business plan. Donations to charitable organisations can come in all different forms, for example money, time or stock. You could pledge to donate a particular percentage of your annual profits to a charity, you could work with employees to decide on a rota to help out at local organisations or you could donate stock that could be of use somewhere.
Research your local area to find a charity partner or regularly change your charity in order to help lots of different causes. Whilst it will be beneficial to donate to charity as your company will be seen in a positive light, any business owner should be prioritising charitable giving in order to give back to the community that has contributed to their success.
Promoting diversity in any workplace is a part of a company’s corporate responsibility. Having an inclusive working culture will be beneficial for everyone, which involves valuing a range of characteristics including age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, political views, upbringing, disability and cultural background. A diverse working environment should accept individual differences and offer equal opportunities, which will in turn provide many more unique perspectives and innovative ideas.
There are many ways to ensure you are building diversity in your workplace. You could offer specific internships to underrepresented groups with all expenses paid or offer unconscious bias training to your staff, if you are unsure where to begin. In your everyday decisions, work hard to ensure that you are consistently implementing diversity policies and valuing differences.
Companies acknowledging their corporate responsibility
Here are some of the leading companies when it comes to corporate responsibility. Of course this is no competition, as any changes are fantastic, yet this might provide some inspiration for where you would like to take your company in the future in relation to corporate responsibility.
TOMS is a footwear company who have always had sustainability at the centre of their practices. They look for ways to benefit their employees, customers and the planet throughout every stage of production.
Although the company is already working hard on their responsibilities, they are aiming to include more environmentally friendly materials and processes, they continue to reduce their energy usage and waste, they are aiming to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 and they are also making many other changes in their cardboard packaging and reporting areas. They are also a part of the Fair Labor Foundation. In terms of charitable giving, for every £3 they make, they give £1 away.
Now, when it comes to corporate responsibility I don’t think it gets much better than this!
Another company that takes their corporate social responsibility extremely seriously is Santander. They recognise the importance of customers, employees, communities, the environment and suppliers in their company and they ensure that they act responsibly.
They offer fair banking services to customers, they provide the best possible working conditions for staff including clear paths for progression, they invest around £20 million in charities each year, they are ranked 6th in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and they follow strict procedures to ensure fair deals are made.
The Cadbury Foundation was founded in 1935 to invest in the welfare of their employees, with its first donation being £40. In the last 10 years, the foundation has now donated £8 million to many different causes.
Another important initiative is Cocoa Life, which is a $400 million programme to help 200,000 cocoa farmers and a million community members by 2022. They are hoping to provide better livelihoods and to give people the tools to build a stronger future.
Gymshark has made a promise to both their people and the planet to prepare the world for tomorrow. Their promise to the people is to create a caring and inclusive working family, from the production lines right through to gym floors and they are very transparent about their pay statistics across the board.
Their pledge to the planet involves promising to continue to learn about sustainability to reduce their carbon footprint. In 2021, they will be switching to zero carbon energy supplies, implementing recycled fibres where possible, moving towards zero-to-landfill at their head office, extending the life cycle of every product, continuously assessing their business model and finally offsetting all CO2 emissions.
They also pledge not to use or source animal products anywhere in their process and they also source 100% more sustainable cotton. For such a young company, they are definitely leading the way when it comes to corporate responsibility.
When it comes to corporate responsibility, every company will have different duties. The bottom line is that every company should be doing everything they can to be fair to their employees, customers and the environment at every possible stage.
This is not a simple checklist that can be achieved and forgotten about. Corporate responsibility is an ongoing commitment that must regularly be reviewed and altered. Taking this responsibility seriously should be the norm, but until then, make sure that you are doing your bit to make positive changes to every corner of your business.
About the Author
Daisy Moss is a freelance writer specialising in working environments and wellness. Recently she has developed an interest in corporate responsibility and is fascinated by some of the implementations major companies are making. Her previous specialism in commercial lease renewals ignited this passion which she is excited to continue to explore.