By Anna-Lisa Mills, Group Sustainability Manager, Innovation Group

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has come a long way since the term was introduced back in the 1960s. It’s no longer about setting lofty and idealistic expectations, which compete with financial and business goals. The CSR program for the future-ready business works in harmony with these goals and is sustainable in all senses of the word: it ensures the future environment, customers, staff and profits of the company. It is developed through careful consideration of the range of benefits that CSR can bring to a business, and it must align with organisational culture.

In addition, the concept is now an essential consideration for businesses of all sizes. Whilst SMEs may not have the resources to invest substantially in a structured, formal CSR programme, it is increasingly likely that larger business partners that SMEs often provide to will make contractual demands of their supply chain to meet minimum standards in sustainability practices.

Planet, people, profit

By focusing on these three elements – often referred to as the ‘triple bottom line’ – innovative companies have made sure that a sustainability program is fully integrated into the business strategy, and is not an afterthought or a box-ticking exercise. Business leaders need to be committed to driving the program forward at every opportunity and this means they need to understand the full spectrum of benefits it can bring.

Winning new customers

Today’s marketers understand the importance of differentiating products and services to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Differentiation based on a responsible outlook is far more desirable than just price differentiation. Without increased volumes, price differentiation is unsustainable and will starve a business of future investment. Investing in CSR is therefore an investment in future business, and future customers.

Energy savings = cost savings

By accurately calculating and reporting on the positive impacts of a CSR programme, you are not only proving the social benefits of such a programme, but also realising the financial benefits. For example, Innovation Group has worked with the Carbon Fix Foundation, to measure and report their carbon footprint as well as develop plans to reduce their carbon emissions. Through the Smart Carbon™ tool, we have seen evidence of cost savings through a reduction in energy requirements. The carbon reduction plan is estimated to have saved the Group around 857.27 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the first year of its implementation (FY2013). Even for smaller businesses, the benefits of becoming less reliant on limited sources of energy has clear and measurable benefits.
Being part of a responsible supply chain.

It’s not only customers who want to do business with a responsible partner, but suppliers too. By using Smart Carbon™ to assess the supply chain of one division, Innovation Group is helping their partners to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint too. The Group has invited a number of suppliers to attend a roadshow and complete an e-learning course to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability in corporate planning. In this way, even smaller businesses in the value chain have the opportunity to learn about and implement positive changes. All of this helps to promote efficiencies, leading to savings at key points in the process. These savings can then in turn be passed on to customers.

Preparing for the future

There are a number of industries which are certain to be heavily impacted by climate change – the existence of which there is now no doubt. For the insurance sector in particular, it is increasing the number of insurance claims (caused by extreme weather events), meaning businesses need to be more aware and more prepared for these climate events than ever before. By demonstrating that your business understands industry-specific issues, and is helping to put in place solutions to reduce their impact for everyone, you will be ensuring that your business is future-ready.