Return on CSR

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on July 14, 2010

A client recently told me that two things stood out to him in talks with employees at the large outsourcing firm where he is an executive, and with prospective employees interviewing for jobs. First, he said, the agents and applicants he talked to said they were impressed with the firm because it offered a real career path for employees. That’s an important competitive advantage to have associated with an outsourcing brand.

The industry is perceived to suffer from a high rate of churn-not nearly as high as urban myth suggests, though-as a result of burnout and the difficult working hours. Credibly communicating that his firm offers real upward mobility can help attract applicants that might not otherwise consider working in the outsourcing industry. It can also reduce turnover, and contribute to a motivated workforce.

Second, my client said the mostly young people he met with applied with the outsourcing firm in part because of the perception that it “gives back” to the community in meaningful ways. The company sponsors and encourages employees to participate in a variety of community development initiatives, including disaster relief efforts, regularly donating blood to the Red Cross, and helping clean and repair public schools and equipment. It has also provided financial support for young children who don’t have the resources required to attend public schools.

I was pleased to hear what my client had to say about perception of his company. My firm is responsible for helping shape perception of my client’s brand in the Philippines, and our communication efforts have been focused on these two attributes: real and attractive career and professional development opportunities; and, regular, frequent initiatives to support development of the communities that provide the company’s direct and indirect labor pool.

But the self-serving pat-on-the-back isn’t the reason I’m bringing this observation to your attention. The point is that there is a tangible return on corporate social responsibility (CSR) for my client. While the client undertook these CSR initiatives for their merit, they are demonstrating in a not-so-small way that it pays off to do good. The psychic and moral rewards are entirely sufficient, but the positive associations with the brand offer a great return. In this case, the perception of a great employer.

Today and tomorrow, the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) is presenting its 9th annual CSR conference and expo, and it will provide many other examples of “Return on CSR.” This year’s theme is “Synergizing for Change,” and it takes off from the national enthusiasm for change following the inauguration of the Philippines’ 15th president. Organizers note that “hopes for achieving positive change have surged. But effecting real and lasting change is only accomplished when ‘synergy’ between the private and public sectors is present.”

Today’s plenary sessions are designed to show where synergy between the private and public sector is needed most: socio-economically, environmentally, and politically. University of the Philippines economists Arsenio Balisacan and Dennis Mapa will describe the reasons poverty is such a complicated and persistent problem for the Philippines, and attempt to address the root causes for this chronic and tragic circumstance.

A panel discussion led by Secretary Corazon Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other influential public and private sector executives and officials will focus on the role of the private sector in addressing both socio-economic and environmental issues. Erna Witoelar, chairperson of the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium, will conclude the day’s sessions with a look at the successful example of private-public sector collaboration in Indonesia.

The political dimension-always sensitive even with the incoming administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III enjoying enormous goodwill according to a recent poll-will be addressed emphatically and energetically the following day, July 15, beginning with a breakout session entitled, “Solidarity through Responsible Citizenship.” Organizers say the session will show how individuals with varying perspectives can work together for positive change.

A plenary featuring presentations by USAID chief of the Program Office Myra Emata-Stokes and International Youth Foundation president & CEO William Reese will set the direction for a panel discussion on the impact of education on the three areas of focus: socio-economic, environmental, and political issues and their contribution to fostering change when synergy is present between the private and public sector. Education secretary Armin Luistro will lead the panel of experts.

A concurrent expo showing how companies and individuals can reduce their carbon footprints, and a recycling initiative are other features of this year’s LCF CSR conference. There’s still time to register and attend sessions. Put down the paper, and head to SMX.

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand . Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.). Copyright © 2010 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)

1 Comment

  1. Despite the weather (a typhoon roared through Manila during the night), the conference is off to a good start. As I sit in the plenary, I’m told we are approaching the 500 delegate level.

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