In my view, for a business to get the most benefit out of its CSR strategy (not just in terms of profit, but also in terms of employee engagement and positive benefit to the community), it has to be an authentic reflection of the ethos of the business. I have always had a slight concern that some CSR undertaken by certain companies lacks that authenticity and feels a bit like a ‘tick-box exercise’. My LinkedIn feed is often awash with CSR activities and I could make a patchwork quilt of corporate T-shirts.
Of course, businesses undertake CSR in part to market themselves by seeking to demonstrate who they are and what their values are. CSR can be a great way to post social media content and build awareness. But this only really works if the underlying engagement is authentic – otherwise, there is a risk of perceived tokenism. At the heart of authenticity in CSR is employee engagement. At BCR we were concerned that it seemed to be the same people that participated in our CSR events. We wanted to broaden employee engagement and expand the range of opportunities for people to get involved with causes they believe in, in turn benefiting more people on our Island.
A Genuine Culture Commitment
Our challenge is to make CSR an inclusive part of our culture. For that to happen we need all employees to feel engaged. We have tried to communicate to our team that we want to be a firm that places importance on giving back to the community and supporting our employees. We made it clear that we wanted to align the firm’s CSR activities with their values. This was all part of an effort to change people’s thinking on CSR – to move it away from being seen as purely ancillary to marketing and making it a central pillar of our employee well-being strategy.
The Direction of Travel
BCR is a young firm. Any success we have comes directly from our excellent people. For our CSR initiatives to be authentic we need them to be reflective of our people. This means we need our people to drive them. We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy fix; it takes time to embed CSR in a business culture. We are lucky that BCR has a progressive senior team and employees who embrace change. We are already seeing a significant increase in the number of people wanting to get involved in CSR activities and proposing initiatives that are close to their hearts.
We have introduced the ‘volunteer day’ to our employee benefits package. All of our team members have an annual personal allowance of volunteer days. This allows people to dedicate their time and skills to a charity or cause of their choice. Empowering people to choose their own causes supports their genuine desire to help and allows that help to be provided in a way which suits their individual strengths and temperaments. Many have used the days for charitable challenges or some by directly volunteering for a charity or cause close to their hearts. The ‘volunteer days’ initiative has allowed our firm and its people to make positive changes in areas that align with their personal values but it only works because we respect their privacy on what they do.
CSR Value Increases if it’s Genuine.
These decisions are not entirely altruistic! The firm remains a business. However, we are a business that is dependent on our people. In a difficult market, we need to do all we can to retain our existing employees and attract new recruits. One aspect of this is by ensuring we promote, as far as we can, our people’s well-being. We believe that letting our team decide individually what they want to support and how they want to support it helps promote their well-being. We try to foster a culture that values social responsibility in all that we do. Engagement from the firm’s leadership is genuine because it benefits our staff but also strengthens our authentic connection to the local community.
CSR is not just about charity, it’s about our responsibility to our people. We want our people to work hard but we also want them to have balance in their life. Absent proper balance people risk burnout leading to higher sickness rates and fatigue. The absence of proper balance makes our people not as effective and efficient as they would otherwise be. CSR is an important aspect of this.
We also give an annual ‘well-being allowance’ to all of our staff. This is a sum of money set aside for each employee which they can use on anything that helps with their own physical, mental or emotional well-being. Our people know best what, on an individual basis, is of most benefit to them, so we give them the power to choose. It’s been a really positive initiative and employees have had some really imaginative uses of the award.
We recognise that not everyone wants to volunteer on their own. We still have a range of local charities and organisations we are proud to support. In 2023 we have partnered with Dementia Jersey as our charity of the year and we’re excited to be sponsoring a sculpture in Durrell’s Tortoise Takeover.
We are very fortunate that next to our red building on Hill Street is CCA Galleries. We are thrilled to team up with them again (for the fourth consecutive year) to support the Jersey Summer Exhibition. This year has also seen us sponsor Madeira FC and after their successful last season, we are really excited about watching them progress further and being a part of that journey.
CSR is more than a tick-box exercise. It has to be authentic. By integrating CSR into our culture we seek to demonstrate a genuine commitment to giving back to the local community and supporting the well-being of our people.
This article was first published in Connect Magazine in June 2023.