What Do I Think About Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? Really?

By 3rd January 2018Clubclass
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By Douglas Bailey, Managing Director at Stuncroft

Honestly? First thought is “Not another distraction from the difficult job of trying to run a business.” Second thought; “it’s used as a PR vehicle for many companies.” Third thought; “it’s a policy that was probably invented to keep poor companies in check.”

Then I examined the way I run Stuncroft Ltd. I realised that the very tenet of a CSR policy are actually my core beliefs. Namely:

1. Happy employees who develop and grow.
2. Satisfied customers as they appreciate the ethics of the company
3. Long term future prosperity of the business.
4. Benefits to the local community and the wider world by doing business in a fair and ethical way.
5. Promotes opportunity for the business.
6. Minimises risk in many areas.
7. Attracts investment.
8. Actual cost reduction (especially in staff recruitment).
9. Improves quality of both the product and the service as a result of buy-in.
10. Finally, the simple desire to do Good!

It took me back to school and the story of Bournville, the home of Cadbury chocolate.

The story below explains the attitude of George Cadbury. Whilst he did not have a formal CSR Policy I think it is safe to say he did more than most companies who have policies in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility.

In 1847, when the Cadbury factory became too small, George Cadbury had a vision of the future. ‘Why should an industrial area be squalid and depressing?’ he asked. His brother Richard shared this vision and they began searching for a special site for their new factory. In 1878 they chose a 141⁄2 acre greenfield site between the villages of Stirchley, King’s Norton and Selly Oak, about four miles south of Birmingham. The site comprised a meadow with a cottage and a trout stream – the Bourn. The name ‘Bournville’ was chosen. At Bournville, workers lived in far better conditions than experienced in the crowded slums of the city. Bournville had a canal, train, road links and a good water supply. George wanted to build a place full of green spaces, where industrial workers could thrive away from city pollution.

Production began in September 1879. Cadburys’ workers found facilities that were simply unknown in Victorian times. There was a field next to the factory where men were encouraged to play cricket and football; a garden and playground for the girls; a kitchen where workers could heat up their meals, and properly heated dressing rooms where they could get changed. Sports facilities grew to
include; football, hockey and cricket pitches, tennis and squash racquet courts and a bowling green. Gradually swimming pools were built and every young boy and girl joining the company was encouraged to become a good swimmer. Work outings were organised together with summer camps for the young boys.

For workers who still needed to travel to the new factory from their homes in Birmingham, Cadbury negotiated special workmen’s train fares to Bournville’s Stirchley Station with the local railway company. Cadbury duly became famous not just for its prosperity, but also for the advances in conditions and social benefits for its workforce.

The above story perfectly outlines a business run for profit, sustainability and growth. It also shows a business that has CSR at its heart. In 1879 Cadburys’ didn’t have a CSR policy; or did it?

Today Stuncroft manufacture in 4 different countries. We have a standard CSR policy for all to see. However, far more important than a written policy is how we behave. In all countries we stress many of the principles George Cadbury believed in. Honest, decent and fair
to all: customers, suppliers, staff. Do no harm. Better still do good. Improve the areas and lives you touch. Yes, we have bought football kits for local teams in the factories and supported other events for the local population, but they are extra. They are not the main tenet of being socially responsible. In almost all areas of business it costs no more to be responsible than not. It costs no more be decent and fair. I have run out of space to mention sustainability in any depth, but It is all part of the same story. 170 years later Cadbury are still going strong. They are still a responsible company doing good. For now, that says something about sustainability and social responsibility.

Forget the name of the policy and just behave responsibly and fair in all areas. It’s in all of our interests.

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