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The value of CSR in setting your business apart from the crowd

By: Ann Swain, CEO, APSCo

If any greater proof were needed of the nations willingness to contribute to good causes, it was the recent Ice Bucket Challenge- according to research conducted for the Charities Aid Foundation, one in six Britons (17%) said they took part.  And while not quite as all-pervasive as dousing yourself in freezing cold water, recent viral initiatives such as the Stephen Sutton Thumbs Up campaign and the #nomakeupselfie for cancer were particularly well-supported, with 7% and 6% of the UK public supporting them respectively.  At work too, we want to be good corporate citizens not only can supporting charitable causes in practical ways provide welcome relief from the daily grind of working life, it can also pay dividends in helping employees bond as a team. 

Its also worth pointing out that engaging in workplace charity initiatives can also help to attract and retain staff, particularly younger employees, who often value making a positive impact on society over and above salary and other benefits.  According to a survey by Deloitte, 50% of Millennials want to work for a business with ethical practices.  However, perhaps what can be overlooked in our altruism is the benefit that a good CSR (corporate social responsibility) programme can have on the business case.  Todays clients are seeking partners who share their values in terms of being socially aware and, in a crowded marketplace where it can be difficult to differentiate your business from the herd, an active and effective CSR strategy can provide that much needed point of difference. 

Moreover, its important to recognise that when clients are considering a partners CSR strategy, its not necessarily a diary of fund-raising initiatives that is going to seal the deal.  As APSCos own approach to CSR underlines, as well as charitable giving, being a good corporate citizen also involves workforce diversity and reducing unemployment.  Our members are required to take measurable steps to improve diversity within their organisation and across the recruitment industry.  We also use our position as a trade body to lobby Government to ensure fair labour market legislation that ultimately drives jobs growth and reduces unemployment.

How does this translate to recruiters I hear you ask?  Perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence available is the experience of APSCo member, the Croydon-based firm Harris Global, which recently became the first recruitment consultancy to win the Gold Award in the Responsible Business Standard from the Organisation for Responsible Businesses (ORB).  The firm was recognised for its stringent CSR policies which stretch across every aspect of the business, with a focus on responsible best practice in the workplace, environment, community and marketplace, as well as ethics, values and transparency.  According to its chairman Alan Feast, incorporating a diversity agenda within its plans helped it win business with a major client.
So, if youre seeking to gain competitive advantage as a business, perhaps now is the time to evaluate where you stand in terms of your strategy with regards not only to charitable giving, but also to encouraging a diverse workforce that reflects both your clients and marketplaces in which they operate. 


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