Corporate social responsibility is not just about community outreach or the environment. It involves everything your company does and more.
When you think of corporate social responsibility what comes to mind? Your company’s community outreach program? Your organization’s tree planting efforts to compensate for your carbon footprint? Well, corporate social responsibility and individual social responsibility is that and a lot more you probably never thought about. It includes sustainability at all levels and as such it involves gender issues, the environment, financial equality, access to education, and so on.
At a recent conversation with Ambassadors, fans, and partners of the Red Shoe Movement, journalist Verónica Alvarez Puente, CEO of V-PR, a Public Relations and Communications agency focused on social responsibility, shed light into this critical 21st Century issue. Verónica, who is originally from Argentina, recently moved to Miami. She’s had a long trajectory working in this space for corporations such as Nextel and hosting her own TV program where she featured corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Corporate Social Responsibility and how it differs from Social Responsibility
Let’s start from the beginning. There seems to be a bit of confusion when it comes to social responsibility. Can you tell us what it is?
Social responsibility is the voluntary assumption of responsibilities and the sharing of values that go beyond the purely economic and legal responsibilities of an individual or a business.
What’s the difference between social responsibility and corporate social responsibility? Are there things we should ask our organizations to do? What are they?
Social responsibility is about how people manage their lives to produce an overall positive impact on society. Corporate social responsibility is about how companies manage their business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.
Delving into Corporate Social Responsibility
Can you give us specific examples of companies that have great corporate social responsibility programs in place? How are they benefiting them? What’s the bottom line?
Having goals and a vision that go beyond profits is crucial to business success. Social responsibility involves putting together a real plan to serve the best interests of society. To be fair, rather than naming specific companies that are following this path, I would prefer to name the attributes organizations must have to be socially responsible. Then I can talk about the benefits associated to such behavior.
I’d like to highlight the work of companies that are creating behavior-changing products and services, that are using renewable energy, that keep an open dialogue with their stakeholders to find out how to improve their business. Organizations that care about their products’ safety and quality, that conduct responsible sales and promotion, that keep their audiences informed so they can make adequate decisions. Companies that foster workplace diversity and equality of opportunities, that protect local employment, and encourage behavioral change initiatives. Companies that address social responsibility inside and outside their organizations because social responsibility is directly related to the business core. It involves behavior, performing better every day and showing true commitment. The truth is that corporate social responsibility requires leadership. It is not about establishing a couple of programs executed towards a specific audience, or about funding a worthwhile social cause. It is much more than that. It requires education, guidance and expertise to be effective.
Its benefits are numerous: value creation, attraction and retention of staff, attraction of investments, costs reduction, differentiation from competitors, increased profitability, and reputation, among others. There is an emerging phenomenon called “social license”, through which communities can support or disrupt operations that they disapprove of. The importance and prevalence of social media became the bottom line for companies to quickly address behavioral change initiatives. But a quick fix is like a photo that captures a moment. And a photo is not enough. Corporate social responsibility is about the entire film, the trajectory, the long term commitment.
And what are a few simple things corporations can start implementing tomorrow that have involve cost savings? Things that don’t involve assigning a budget but rather cutting expenses.
- Conduct more videoconferences and reduce transportation expenses.
- Require digital distribution of newsletters, programs for conferences, reports to reduce printing and paper costs.
- Activate an internal communications campaign requiring employees to turn off their computers at the end of the day.
- Invite employees to bring their own mugs and refill their cups rather than using paper cups to reduce cost of paper goods.
- Set up your thermostat to shut down during off business hours.
- Label recycling bins clearly for accurate use.
What are five simple things our readers can start doing tomorrow to jump on the social responsibility bandwagon?
- Buy the food you will really eat! We tend to buy more food than we can actually use!
- Use dishwashers or laundry machines with full load. You will save energy!
- Turn off lights as you exit a room regardless of how soon you’ll be back.
- Recycle. Separate papers, metals, plastics, glass and organic waste!
- Reduce the use of plastic or paper bags. Buy a few eco-friendly bags that you can reuse and bring with you every time you go shopping.
What are some of your own social responsibility practices?
First of all I would like to say that I strive every day to be socially responsible and to encourage others to change habits and attitudes. Some examples regarding my daily habits would be:
I replace plastic for glass whenever I can. I use glass bottles that can be refilled instead of buying plastic water bottles, for example.
I save energy in many ways. For example: I avoid overfilling the electric kettle when I only need a cup of tea or coffee; I only do laundry when I have a full load; I turn off the lights as I leave a room and I turn off all electronics at night.
I have replaced traditional light bulbs at home for low consumption ones.
I try to use the car less so I walk everywhere I can. I save gas, carbon emissions and it is excellent exercise!
I have replaced my toilets for dual flush/low flow ones, which use much less water. Here’s an easy tip: put a brick inside your toilet tank and you will use a quarter less of water with every flush.
I buy less. I have learned to live differently doing more with less, and when I buy, I try to buy local products. I love visiting farmers’ markets!
You can connect with Verónica Alvarez Puente at: