13/10/2011

By David Saul, Managing Director of Business Environment, Leading Serviced Office Operator, explains to really benefit others through business

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a buzz phrase that UK businesses use more and more frequently in today’s world – but what does it actually mean? There exist a number of definitions and each business interprets CSR differently, according to their own vision and values.

On one hand, it can refer to the management of business procedures – how green its suppliers are, the way it treats and develops its workforce and the principles upon which its business model is shaped. But it is also about the wider impact a business has on its local or even national community.

We’d be very ignorant indeed if we were to say that businesses exists in isolation. The way in which we run a company affects all sorts of stakeholders – from employees to customers, suppliers and the community in which we operate. It is essential then to take a responsible attitude and ensure its effect is a positive one.

So how do businesses go about doing this? Well, that differs from company to company. Gordon Brown, former Chancellor of the Exchequer once said, ‘CSR goes far beyond the old philanthropy of the past – donating money to good causes at the end of the financial year – and is instead an all year round responsibility.’ This still holds true; it is very much about incorporating it into the heart of everything a business does.

In terms of being a socially responsible employer, Business Environment communicates regularly with staff to ensure problems are resolved as they arise, reward them with team socials and benefit packages and encourage them to leave on time to help support a healthy work-life balance. We also feel that it is important to support both national and local initiatives. In response to National Bike Week in June we installed a major bike rack at one of our of our London centres, as well as organising refresher courses to encourage cycling as a way of commuting to work. In a similar vein, we also lent our support to a National Forest planting scheme with both staff and suppliers helping to plant over 100 young trees in a bid to reduce carbon emissions and create a new wooded landscape for the UK. Initiatives like these have a really positive impact on both the environment as a whole, but also increase the positive morale of employees who can see the value of their personal actions on others.

Although it is great to get involved in larger, national initiatives, I also think it is important to support charities and community groups that have a personal connection with our employees. For instance, one of our members of staff has helped her mother battle through ovarian cancer and so organised a cake sale at one of our Bristol offices with monies raised going to Target Ovarian Cancer. We were really delighted to help support this and know it means a great deal to her colleagues, friends and family.

With so many types of causes out there, sometimes it is difficult for businesses to know which ones to support. Where possible, they should look for synergies between its products and services. As a provider of serviced offices, Business Environment wants to ensure that the offices and facilities we supply are as green as possible.

We’re currently implementing an initiative across our 18 centres which involves removing personal waste bins from office floors. Although it sounds drastic, measures like these help to increase awareness of what can and cannot be recycled among staff and has no doubt encouraged them to recycle more at home. Although the initiative is still at an early stage, we’re very excited about the amount of waste we will be able to reduce over the next few months, and even years.

When it comes to effective CSR, companies should consider it as integral to the way they function – not seeing it as an ‘add-on’ but a method of shaping business activity. Do this and they really can benefit all of those around them.


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