Organisational purpose, CSR and learnings from #HLBCommunities Day

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Have you had a look at any business literature lately? Organisational purpose appears to be the new competitive advantage. From public scrutiny over tax structures and customer demand for sustainable products, to government regulation around gender pay gaps reporting and fierce competition on the labour market with talent looking for more than just a paycheck. In modern society, CEOs have to satisfy and win trust from a far more complex set of stakeholders than ever before.

We are more aware of how our decisions effect the world and the choices we make in business reflect this. But while organisational purpose is important, it is not your company’s job to save the world. Instead, aim to conduct business in a responsible way and build an authentic culture around it. Modern organisations don’t shy away from their societal responsibilities. They recognise both the business benefits as well as the positive impact they can make on society and are actively engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Here is why.

It is good for business

CSR activities can help an organisation fulfill their purpose and differentiate itself from its competition in many ways. Creating a corporate image for your company around positive societal impact helps build a strong brand. This is important to your customers who want to buy sustainable products, your shareholders who like to see the equity of the brand grow, and your employees who want to be part of a bigger cause. As differentiation though products and services has become increasingly difficult, your brand is what helps you stand out from the competition and instill confidence in your company with the right audiences.

Building the right culture

Employees are an organisations’ most important stakeholder group and they tell the brand story in a way that no amount of advertising can. Today’s workforce want more than just to work,  they want to make an impact. Their happiness and contentment while working for your organisation can influence its success. In fact, according to 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, ”employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent)”. By putting CSR authentically at the heart of your organisation’s culture, you give your biggest advocates a reason to build an environment where they feel empowered and that they are making a difference. With talent attraction and retention being a top concern for CEOs today, having a culture that stands out for doing good in the world will help move your company to the front of the queue for the right candidates.

Creating a business imperative

Authenticity is key. A brand and culture built around social responsibility will never be sustainable if the message and behaviours are not adopted and embedded from the top down. Today’s workforce expects leadership by example. And that doesn’t just go for your employees. An organisations social responsibility agenda is increasingly dictating who wants to work with you or buy from you. Throughout the supply chain up to the customer, people are looking to associate with authentic and responsible brands. Visa versa, you can also choose to work with suppliers and on projects that fit with your company philosophy to fulfil your purpose.

As part of HLB’s CSR programme, our recent #HLBCommunities Day saw many of HLB leaders engage in projects ranging from blood donations and beach clean-ups, to volunteering at food banks and giving time and resources to educational programmes. The take-aways we at HLB took from this global CSR initiative are lessons anyone can all learn from:

  1. Giving back is even more important to our workforce than we anticipated, based on the fast number of people who wanted to be involved and positive feedback from participants;
  2. Transparent reporting on the combined network impact amplified local messages and global enthusiasm among both internal and external stakeholders;
  3. Active participation in local communities is a smart and strategic management decision, which we need to embed deeper in our culture.

Business leaders should recognise the benefits and rethink their organisational purpose and CSR agenda. If you haven’t begun to yet, the time is now to put social responsibility at the heart of your strategy. It makes good business sense.

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