09/09/10

By Allan Biggar, Chairman, All About Brands

With a plethora of CSR programmes and initiatives out there, working out a way forward can be tough. Allan Biggar, Chairman of All About Brands, explains why he signed up to the UN Global Compact and how AAB is using it as a roadmap.

Last month, All About Brands announced that it had signed up to, and been accepted to join, the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest and most widely embraced corporate citizenship initiative. We don’t do this stuff lightly, and four years after inception, I have to say I’m really proud of the progress we’re making on being a good corporate citizen, and in building a sustainable business.

In our short time, we have instituted a sustainable development plan, instituted carbon offsetting across the Group as well as entered a four year partnership with the UK's leading youth development charity, The Prince's Trust. It’s a pretty good record. The latest development, signing up the UN Global Compact, is the next step in our efforts not only to do the right thing for us as a business, but also to be a proud and active player in promoting good corporate citizenship and sustainable behaviours.

The ten principles of the Global Compact relate to human rights, employment, environment and anti-corruption. By signing the Compact, we are committing to uphold high standards and best practice across all four areas. Some cynics, I’m sure, might question the value and reality of supporting lofty ideals, especially in the UK where standards on all four areas are largely enshrined in corporate law.

Well, we’re doing this for three reasons:

First, AAB is one of just five UK based marketing services groups to sign up to the UN Global Compact, and the first with operations overseas. I think we can rightly claim to be demonstrating leadership here, and fundamentally it’s the right thing to do.

Second, we are a small to medium enterprise (SME), and so the disproportionate effort required to put in place a sustainable development plan, make a significant charitable commitment, offset carbon against our travel and other activities (often with a price tag), tells anyone that we actually mean this. It’s not done lightly, and our support of the UN Global Compact allows us to showcase those actions through the annual Communication on Progress that we are required to provide the UN.

Third, we’re now embarking on expansion in some exciting emerging economies. We already have our office in Abu Dhabi, and we’re shortly to announce a significant expansion into Eastern Europe and the Indian sub-continent. Suffice to say, we are entering some markets in a very different place to the UK, and our aspiration to establish best practice and make a difference is very exciting. I don’t expect this to be a straight forward process, but sustainable development is a journey, and our signing of the Global Compact is a statement that we’re on that journey and provides a pretty good roadmap.

I have a firm belief that business has a role in promoting the wider societal good and I am proud that AAB is integrating values of community and social responsibility into the strategy and culture of our company, and is also engaging in projects which advance the broader development goals of the United Nations. And we do it, because we know it means something to our employees. They want to see the business do the right thing and behave accordingly, and that in turn is generating loyalty, productivity and, most important of all, a happy workforce.

There are a lot of initiatives and frameworks out there, often with a big price tag attached to it. But take a look at the UN Global Compact and give a thought to how it might help you formulate what CSR priorities you should begin to focus on. The beauty of it is, that it recognises CSR takes time and you can only go at your own pace. You’ve just got to commit to some form of progress year on year. And if you decide to sign up, you’ll be keeping good company and enjoy the endorsement that you’ve been accepted into a UN acknowledged process with an impressive kitemark to boot. Check www.unglobalcompact.org and join the club!

All About Brands (AAB) is a group of international companies collectively dedicated to building business value for clients through the effective development and management of their brands. To find out more visit www.aabplc.com