Fix the wOrld! CSR Industry Panel

One of the most difficult initial challenges on the path to building a platform of corporate social responsibility starts with deciding what causes to support and how. We've put together a small panel comprising Sam Cawthorn, Adam Smith and our own Erin Hillier to discuss how your team can get started down the path of CSR - and why they should!

What causes is your company aligned with?

ADAM SMITH
My work is focused on creating dynamic, mutually beneficial partnerships between the corporate and education sectors in Australia. Many corporations have identified the provision of a high quality education as a priority in which they can dedicate both financial and non financial resources.

SAM CAWTHORN
We work within non-for-profits FOCUSSED on helping people live with a disability such as the National Disability Framework, CBM, Caring For People and Cerable Palsy; particularly helping those that work in developing worlds.

What drove that alignment?

ADAM SMITH
Any company wishing to support children, youth, families and communities more broadly often look to schools as the point at which they might connect and engage. Within and around schools, there are hundreds of excellent non profit organisations seeking to do the work schools often cannot do, particularly when it comes to preparing disadvantaged young people for education or work. There are also organisations such as the Royal Children's Hospital Education Institute in Melbourne, which offer brilliant opportunities for corporations to enable education support to be provided to young people living with a chronic health condition.

SAM CAWTHORN
I live with a disability and I have family members that live with a disability. People that live with a disability in developing worlds are the most disadvantaged minority group in the world. They are the true poorest of the poor.

How do you measure your social impact?

ADAM SMITH
Sometimes the most significant social impact is the most difficult to measure and useful metrics are often hard to find. Serious impact comes in many forms and perhaps the most important relates to the sustainability of the change you've generated. Ideally whatever it is you wish to do in the community, the impact should extend beyond the period of time you're funding or supporting it.

SAM CAWTHORN
We measure it by seeing and hearing about results and outcomes of where our money goes to. We are not looking for reciprocation or the benefit it does to our brand, we do it for the value and contribution to humanity, but we want to make sure that our investments are well spent.

What's your magic moment?

ADAM SMITH
For many companies, there are three:

  • Knowing the company has made a lasting contribution in the community
  • Having staff feel engaged and proud of the achievements generated
  • Seeing a return for the company in terms of brand alignment, perception and bottom line

ERIN HILLIER
Enjoying the buzz and awesome atmosphere of my team (in a previous role) in the weeks following their trip to work with Ronald McDonald House. They all came back with stories about the families they cooked for and what they achieved on the day. It helped them bond together as a team, alleviated the tension between the newly promoted team leaders and got them planning for the year ahead.

What are the current trends you're seeing in CSR?

ADAM SMITH
A blend of both financial and non financial engagement. Sometimes the impact of offering new skills, networks and time can eclipse the impact of sending a cheque alone.

ERIN HILLIER
CSR has really become a must have for a company hoping to attract top candidates to their business, and it's interesting to see all the creative ways in which organisations are getting their employees engaged and involved in projects. That involvement is key, it isn't really enough anymore to just make a monetary donation to a charity once a year at Christmas time. Employees want to be engaged and involved in what your company is doing to make a difference.

How can a corporation get started on the path to CSR?

ADAM SMITH
Take great inspiration from others. There are excellent examples around the world of what to do and what not to do. Without exception, every effective CSR strategy I've seen begins and ends with great people working together.

SAM CAWTHORN
Firstly they must get connected to their WHY. Why do they exist and what is the why of the employees. Secondly they must look at their own proximity and own community. What are the needs and how can they serve the community better. There are benefits for everyone. Customers, staff, clients and stakeholders associated with an organisation that has a positive outlook for their local community or looks at ways to add value to others, that human consciousness factor, is a winning formula for an organisation that wants a positive future.

ERIN HILLIER
Think about where your organisation would like to be, and to break it down into smaller steps. Then take that all important first step. It doesn't have to be a big, earth shattering change, switch your office to energy efficient light globes, put recycle paper in the general office printer, dedicate one day a year to volunteering with a local charity. Once you've accomplished that first break, the other steps will flow on.

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