Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not usually a topic that features high on the events agenda - whether it be because of little awareness and understanding, or the impracticalities of how to embed it within organisations. It is slowly becoming less of an aside, with corporates seeing the benefits CSR brings to business, from brand reputation and building trust internally and externally, to making better strategic business decisions that includes financial savings and operational efficiencies. And for the increasingly ethically conscious consumer, they care about organisations that demonstrate commitments and responsibility towards society, communities and the environment.
Here we dispel some myths about CSR and highlight why it should be higher on the events agenda. Note, there is a distinction between corporate responsibility (CR) and sustainability, but for the purpose of this blog, we shall refer to it as CSR.
CSR is not a ‘fluffy’ concept
There is a misconception that CSR, particularly in events, lends itself to quick-win initiatives such as reducing onsite plastic consumption or activities centred around feel-good exercises such as volunteering or fundraising. Whilst these are elements of demonstrating a company’s commitment to the environment, communities and charities that have significance, CSR goes beyond the event itself and has a wider social impact that we’ll come on to later.
A tick-box exercise
Many agencies have a volunteering or pro bono policy which incentivises employees of their voluntary commitment, inhouse recycling schemes which show environmental consciousness or perhaps a policy on choosing sustainable venues through to going paperless. Whatever the initiative, CSR is not a bolt-on to tick off practices that should be everyday norms.
Seasonal, trendy or a one-off marketing ploy
CSR isn’t seasonal, a fashionable trend or a one-off volunteering project. It’s constant. Investment (whether it is unpaid hours or monetary) needs to be measured by its inputs, outputs and impacts which leads to better decisions linked to the overall business strategy and company purpose.
So what is CSR?
In its simplest and broadest form, CSR is how a company manages their business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. Whether on a brand or company level, CSR has become an anchor for what an organisation stands for and its corporate values, defining its commitments and license to operate.
Elements of CSR are in fact mandatory, and many people do not realise it. Events agencies are no exception. More than just protecting the environment and giving back to the communities in which we operate, there is a whole interconnected sphere which CSR is wrapped up in, including but not limited to: paying employees living wages; gender pay gap; diversity and inclusion; supply chain operations; health and safety; digital responsibility, and workplace wellbeing to name but a few. Whilst much of these can fall under the remit of HR, a dedicated CSR team or other department, it’s important that all employees recognise the different shapes and forms CSR can take, and the role we all play in making sure we all contribute and promote responsible business behaviours.
"CSR isn’t seasonal, a fashionable trend or a one-off volunteering project. It’s constant."
As mentioned, CSR is constant – it is a continuing commitment by businesses to behave ethically and operate responsibly to improve the quality of life for employees, communities and society overall. We’ve covered why companies should embrace CSR, and how to increase CSR efforts at events in previous blogs, offering great tips and advice on how CSR can be embedded in events. It’s now time for agencies to step up, looking beyond the event itself, and more closely to its operations to contribute and progress the industry in this critical business agenda.
By Cecilia Law - Senior Marketer