Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – three words headed on a company’s policy document (if some even get that far) and too often fated to dwell in the deepest, darkest depths of a file server. But what does it really take to live and breathe a company’s commitment to bettering societal and environmental challenges?  

Here, we share our journey of building and nurturing our environmental pledge, our quest for sincerity through consistency, why it matters and why the heavyweight of responsibility rests on all corporate shoulders, not just that of giants.

Whatever sized operation in the business of doing business, the trade process has a cause and effect, input and output, push and pull that can affect communities and the environment, directly or indirectly. CSR is therefore a company’s proactive movement to improve its social impacts and its environmental footprint on the world. 

Today, more than ever, companies are being compelled to act responsibly when it comes to safeguarding our planet, as consumers and investors increasingly vote with their hearts, minds and feet, opting to make transactions with those that commit to genuine environmental practices.  

Companies that do this effectively, deploy comprehensive CSR programmes that engage all business units, have dedicated staff/resources and have social values ingrained in their culture. Although, this is not all plain sailing.

Environmental policies: a test of sincerity

 It’s hard to fake it, being ‘green’ and socially responsible. People will see through token gestures in a heartbeat and sadly too many companies see this activity as solely a USP, rarely instilling environmental practices into their culture, dipping in and out of CSR activities.

Our Founder and Chairman, Richard East, is our central CSR driving force, living and breathing for the greater good. He regularly sneaks off to his local FareShare depot to volunteer his time to help the UK’s leading food bank and will potter away planting trees (among other fauna enhancing flora) in the locale to boost the environment. The marketing department loves this, regularly begging to sing and dance about this activity to the wider world, but the retort is often the same “only do it if it’s sincere.” That’s the difference, doing what’s right and not just because we should be doing it.  

This is the key point – sincerity and consistency – enhancing any company’s environmental footprint must resonate across all business operations from supply chains, energy usage and recycling to engaging staff through awareness and training on sustainability issues. Any activity must be regular, meaningful and measurable to make a positive difference…..and to be taken seriously.  Something that many organisations struggle to achieve.

So, how are we balancing environmental objectives with doing business? 

Well firstly, any organisation must ‘nail their colours to the mast’ with an explicit dedication to sustainability and the environment.  We’ve achieved this via our Environmental and Sustainability Best Practice Charter which maps out our journey, goals and objectives that we hold ourselves to, measuring our performance en route.

Next, is imploring our internal and external stakeholders to buy into this vision, see that it’s sincere and work towards achieving environmental aims. That starts with building our environmental culture from within.  Our dedicated band of brothers and sisters regularly beat our CSR drum from our Environment Committee platform, bringing our people to our authentic cause, raising awareness of environmental issues and collectively finding and being a part of positive solutions. 

They say actions speak louder than words and we are not all talk. We regularly challenge ourselves to think about how our daily actions impact the environment. Our recent Plastic-Free Day presented huge tests and sparked thought-provoking changes to the way we work – we have already dispensed with plastic water bottle dispensers and cups across our branches.  

However, trying to operate without plastic for a day rammed home how this material has engulfed our workplace and lives, yet continues to cause devastation across our natural environment.  We can do more than just recycle and limit its use where possible and its finding that ‘where’. 

Other affirmative action we are taking to limit negative effects on the environment, both internally and externally, include: reducing company cars, opting for electric/hybrid options; promoting the cycle to work scheme; reducing paper consumption by embracing more online solutions; installing centrally-controlled heating and air conditioning; litter-picking team days; sponsoring trees; measuring and improving our waste management…..the list goes on and on. This is all a tip of a meaningful, and somewhat costly, iceberg – but a cost that matters to us

Keeping the impetus going and finding environmentally-friendly business solutions will always be a challenge for us and other businesses, large and small.  We all have a part to play, however small this is perceived to be, and we should not lay blame and rest responsibility solely on the giants’ shoulders. 

What will be your business legacy? 

2021 is our 20th year of RE and Safehands Recruitment. Whilst this is a huge celebration for us – surviving several recessions, Brexit and a pandemic (to mention a few curve balls) – we want to look back on our journey and know that we had a positive impact on society and our environment.   

We want to create and leave a legacy, one driven by utilitarianism, environmentalism and all the good ‘isms’ that make our business and wider world great. Our commitment to repairing and enhancing our environment is one big step on the ladder.  

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