THE BLOG
22/09/2011 09:16 BST | Updated 21/11/2011 05:12 GMT

CSR: Create Ethical Businesses From the Ground up

Businesses can create their own identity through CSR, and should be encouraged to broadcast their philanthropic successes as a badge of honour.

Corporate and social responsibility has a tendency to generate rhetoric that swings between the opposing extremes of cynicism and evangelism.

Having read Margaret Heffernan's recent piece on how the pendulum should swing away from CSR policies in favour of businesses meeting their tax liabilities, I'm mindful of the potential that any message in support of businesses concentrating on CSR might resemble Radio 4's Thought for the Day instead of carefully considered business ethics.

However alleged multi-billion tax dodges aside; CSR projects carried out by small and medium-sized businesses are universal across the UK and need to be encouraged, because companies' motivations towards benevolence shows us a glimpse of what they can become.

I was recently part of a convoy of aid workers and volunteers in Bulgaria, led by Communication Workers' Union Humanitarian Aid, which along with other projects forms the backbone of our firm's external charitable commitment. In this instance, two staff are given paid time off to join the convoy and either myself or another senior manager takes part as well.

Bulgaria is a country which only recently acceded to European Union membership and one which continues to battle with a legacy of chronic underinvestment in public services leaving more than 20,000 orphaned children and disabled adults often without even the most basic provisions.

Our regular support for this mission is driven by an expectation from our clients, staff and management that ours should be a firm which proudly wears its heart on its sleeve.

It would appear that such an approach to CSR rings true. In 2006 the Federation of Small Businesses found that smaller companies were likely to be motivated by more altruistic tendencies, with 90% driven by a personal value system.

My confession is that our firm has grown over time and is no longer a small business. As such we have probably reached beyond the ability to include the beliefs of our entire workforce into every value judgement we make. However we have built our CSR policy steadily over a period of years alongside a commitment to equality and diversity, and it has become a part of who we are.

I do not envy businesses which struggle against a constant push and pull in relation to CSR. Many are forced to deal with circumstances or a questionable history which make charitable giving or ethical standards impossible to uphold when they appear the very opposite of what the company or its brand values stand for.

But businesses can create their own identity through CSR, and should be encouraged to broadcast their philanthropic successes as a badge of honour.