Learning From Each Other

handsWith businesses keen to enhance their reputations and community and charitable organisations in dire need of resources, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has never been so vital.

The ethos of CSR is no longer simply about companies ‘giving back’ to the community, it involves them forming strategic, mutually beneficial partnerships.

CSR is a strategy that requires all stakeholders to gain from the experience. Key to the experience is finding the right ‘fit’ that matches shared vision and goals with mutual trust and understanding.

Business In the Community Ireland, founded in 2000, are a national non-profit organisation whose vision is to promote responsible and sustainable business.

Corporate Responsibility Consultant Ann Howgego says, “My brief is to work with charities, voluntary and community organisations to help them tap in to a company’s resources. I call myself a matchmaker, I bring them together and ensure there is a right fit.”

Just as companies must understand why they want to engage with the community, charities and community organisations must equally understand what is required of them. CSR is about how companies and community organisations relate to their stakeholders to best tap into resources, people and services.

It can be employee-driven. For example, O2 staff held focus groups to find out what areas interested them. They ended up working with Headstrong, a youth Mental Health Charity, a great fit with the theme of communication.

Companies want to be seen as good neighbours, they may want to rebuild morale and motivation after change, attract talent or rebuild trust and their reputation.

“BITC is all about inspiring companies to have a positive impact on society, it’s not just about nice things to do, it’s making CSR an essential feature of what a company is about,” Howgego adds.

After engaging in charity and community projects, employees return to the workplace motivated, having enjoyed the experience of building relationships, investing time and giving their commitment and expertise to a project.

CSR is not just about raising money, it’s about making a long term impact. In a recent survey by BITC 80% of CEOs polled said that responsible practices are essential to re-building trust.

With 65 members of the BITC network, including partnerships like Glanbia and Barretstown Camp, O2/Headstrong, Special Olympics/Janssen, Vodafone Ireland Foundation and the World of Difference programme, Corporate Social Responsibility is here to stay.

“Where there is a fit between a company, its employees and the charity, everyone has a lot to gain,” Howgego concludes.