“Social Responsibility is for everybody”: an interview with CSR Accreditation Founder Richard Collins
The role of Social Responsibility for businesses is becoming more and more important in everyday strategy and objectives. It is clear that we cannot go back to the way things were before the pandemic. Therefore, at G.APP17 we decided to interview Richard Collins – Founder of CSR Accreditation. We hope through his words to inspire you about the relevance of social responsibility in the future. Not just for your business, but also for your customers, local community, supply chain… everybody.
We’ve already seen in one of our previous blog posts how SMEs can benefit from sustainability and social impact actions. Today, we’ll have a look at how Social Responsibility can be made easier, strategic and with tangible impact for both your business and society at large.
CSR-A is the leading UK-based company delivering a standard for Social Responsibility. It provides the perfect opportunity to tell your positive story and show what good looks like. It’s a great way to pull together what you are already doing with regard to CSR. It helps you easily report on your organisations sustainable and community engagement. Since the launch in 2018, CSR-A has developed CSR Training and Workshops, Social Impact Reporting and even a CSR programme for primary and secondary schools.
Richard Collins – Founder of CSR-A – is an experienced brand strategist, and has pursued a passion for helping companies in the public, private and third sector promote brand reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility to build ethical and caring organisations.
What will be the role of social responsibility in the future of business?
“What CSR has been in the past is something quite different to what is going to represent in the future. I think that social responsibility will actually shape the future of businesses. It will become a crucial ingredient in how businesses put together their strategy and plan for future sustainable success and profitability. It will guide them on writing a good HR policy, how they look at mental health and wellbeing, recruitment and managing their brand and reputation. But we have to educate around social responsibility so that businesses understand it and see clearly how it can have a positive and financial impact as they go forward”.
How should a business new to social responsibility approach this field?
“In the last two/three weeks we’ve been working with a number of businesses. We’ve been looking at how they can build back better as they move from a crisis process into a full recovery and transition. Problem is they don’t know what social responsibility is. They haven’t got that vocabulary in their business language.
<< In 100% of cases the businesses that we work with are already supporting charities or involved in the community >>.
So I think the journey is that a business identifies that they need to do something. They then identify how they position in the community and how they look to their staff. That’s because they’re being asked by their customers or supply chain stakeholders to behave in a certain way. But when this happens they can be like “Wait a minute, we don’t know about social responsibility, what that involves and how we integrate it”. So we give them a platform to define what social responsibility is… we try to put a flag in the ground and say: that’s what Social Responsibility is.
We’re going to say that there’s a standard for social responsibility. Up until now SR could mean so much for so many different actors depending on their perspective. So we give edges and say that social responsibility is built around four pillars of Environment, Workplace, Community and Philanthropy. And within these four pillars a business can audit what they are already doing. In 100% of cases the businesses that we work with are already doing this stuff. And that’s the greatest realisation because they see that they’re already supporting charities, or have a mental health programme and are involved in the community in different ways.
So we tell them that is really positive work and that they should be recording it, benchmarking it, measuring it and communicating it to your internal and external audiences. You can then start to develop storytelling and great narratives, see how you can improve and build on it and finally see how your work is having a positive impact for your business and communities”.
Why have you created the first ever UK accreditation for social responsibility?
“Because we run the International CSR Excellence Award, we were approached by a business membership group in the UK. They were looking at an accreditation programme. We researched and discovered that there wasn’t anything. So we put together the structure and the strategy for a social responsibility accreditation. Especially with a focus on small and medium enterprises, because corporates are doing this and have departments and roles for that.
So we then wanted to challenge the C in CSR. We wanted it to mean more than just Corporate, to stand for different things. So we talk about Community Social Responsibility, Charitable, Consumer, Citizens Social Responsibility. And we wanted to put it all together and talk about Collaborative Social Responsibility. The common theme is around social responsibility, but the C becomes inclusive in a way that smaller businesses, public sector, third sector could part in. Social responsibility is for everybody”.
How do you see a partnership between CSR Accreditation and G.APP17 helping businesses make an even greater impact for people and the environment?
“When drafting a social responsibility standard we had to look at how the Sustainable Development Goals align with our four pillars of CSR. Businesses are keen to address some of the SDGs. And I think what we’re able to do with G.APP17 is that by identifying something that businesses can do towards the Goals, they’re contributing to their CSR strategy and therefore their ability to become accredited.
You’re building a platform that evidences impact against the SDGs and we love that. CSR A has an independent assessment panel that looks at applications and evidence. And if they can look at what businesses are doing through G.APP17 then they can see this evidence because of the partnerships that you are brokering for them around those SDGs. We are both here to encourage businesses to see social responsibility as a long-term engagement programme. It’s not a one-off act of kindness, it’s not a gesture, it’s not a box-ticking exercise. It is actually something they can build into their day to day business practice and see tangible returns.
And the amazing thing is that these days we’re having so many conversations with businesses that despite Covid-19 are asking: how can we be a better business? If some companies are having this conversation, then thousands of companies are having this conversation. I think the pandemic has renewed our focus on what community is about and how we support and look after each other. Genuinely speaking, I think we’re seeing the good side of the human condition and that’s a really wonderful thing”.
So, what are you waiting for?
“Social Responsibility is for everyone!” Richard’s words have been really inspiring for us. And if you believe in change and a better future, I’m sure you felt the same way.
It’s time to tell a real impact story together!