How much is Corporate Social Responsibility valued with your business?
I would wager that you would answer this question with a resounding and positive statement of passion, vigour and intent, which is both articulated and emotive.
But the clue to the answer I am really seeking, lies within the question itself – how much is corporate social responsibility VALUED within your business?
Let me elaborate with a story:
There once was a king who known for his generosity within his kingdom. He gave money to the poor and needy, he invited his citizens to share their views on how he ruled, provided jobs for many and he even created wonderful social games, where the people could compete equally with the most senior of his court!
His reputation for doing good was shared throughout the land and his way of doing good was modelled by other kings in many kingdoms far, far away! Furthermore, his citizens paid their taxes on time.
One day, a great famine swept through his kingdom.
It affected the lives of his people and caused the King great confusion and fear. He found himself pondering over the survival of his kingdom.
But he also did not wish to change the perception that others had of him. He knew that the perception that people had of him was crucial to his survival, not matter what.
His generosity became linked to making sure the most senior of his court were happy, that people still said great things about him, that his citizens still paid their taxes on time.
As the famine took hold, he began to realise that the people loved him no more. Great stories of his generosity were no longer shared, the people’s voice was of negativity and scandal and they found new ways to entertain themselves, without the permission or blessing of the court.
The king scratched his head. “What is happening?” he exclaimed. “Do I not do provide what my people need?” he asked.
There was a knock at his door, “Come in” he said. In walked a young lady dressed in rags, her face hidden by a veil and carrying a small basket.
The king was shocked. He was stunned as to how this disadvantaged looking person had waltzed past his security, direct to his inner most sanctum of the castle.
“Who are you and what do you want?” the king shouted in a voice that echoed a sense of authority and arrogance.
“I want nothing, my lord” she replied. “Except, to share one small thing”.
“What is it” the king asked, his face producing a frown deeper than the neighbouring valley.
She looked up at him, “I would like to tell you how to win back the love of the society you serve and ensure your kingdom becomes prosperous again” she stated her voice full of boldness and confidence.
The king sat up in his throne, his heart pounding with anticipation. “How, pray tell!” he said, eagerly awaiting her reply.
The lady raised her chin and with a sense of passion and adventure, she threw off her rags, to reveal herself – she was dressed in the most expensive silk, bore a necklace of priceless value and her face was radiant and full of life.
She reached into her basket. She pulled out an abacus.
She began moving the beads of the abacus from side to side as she spoke…
“It is simple, my lord. When you give or invest into the lives others, it is important that you measure how much the impact of what you do, provides for others. The value of doing good lies not in what you feel the people need, by what the people feel to be of most value.”
The King smiled, “Please continue my dear” “The people do not want your charity” she said.
“No?” the King asked “Am I not helping them by giving?”
“The people do not want to feel as though they must rely on you, as that creates inferiority, a sense of helplessness and an only temporary reprieve from their misery” the lady explained, he eyes fixed directly into the eyes of the King, as if she was studying the depths of his very soul.
“What the people truly need is an investment into a future they can share with you. They want to know and feel that if a famine came again, you would share your last piece of bread with them, your last sip of water, the last breath you take. Let this abacus remind you of the importance of measuring the real impact of what you do, to both preserve your kingdom and the society you serve.
She handed the abacus to the King.
“Make the people the heart of your business and you will not only win back the reputation you seek, but more importantly, the people will enhance that for you by choosing to invest their skills, experience and understanding with you. You can integrate this learning into your plans to grow your kingdom, and make you prosperous forever!”
With that, she turned and left.
The King stood up. A feeling of liberating calm fell over him.
At that moment, he realised this simple notion – the traditional way of giving to others is admirable and has some short-term value.
But real social value is based on upon the integration of the people at the heart of what you do and in measuring what that means from all aspects. By doing so, commercial success, reputation and a long-term social impact become the norm, not the destination.
Nothing is more priceless than the enriching the lives of the people you serve.
Till the next time>
About the author:
Joel Blake is an award-winning Entrepreneur, Business Speaker and Social Impact Investment Advisor, with over 10 years of experience in advising corporate firms on their investment into Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Strategy.
He is the Founder & Chief Executive of leading social impact consultancy www.cultiv8solutions.com, and has other business interests within the fields of start-up funding and entrepreneur development. He is the Chairman of Career Academies Midlands Advisory Board, a qualified Corporate Governance Practitioner specialising in Social Responsibility and holds a number of Non-Executive Board Directorships across the private and third sector.
Joel is the Founder of the Midlands CSR Summit, an annual think-tank conference started in 2012, that brings together the region’s leading C-Suite executives to share best practice on sustainable social impact solutions for the benefit of businesses and wider society.
In 2010, Joel was awarded a prestigious BYPY Award for his work in CSR Strategy Management for professional service firms, was voted 02 X Award Finalist 2009 for Entrepreneurship and has recently been made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts.
You can connect with him via twitter @joelblakeAGP