Corporate social responsibility – is it really a positive advantage to business or an imposed liability? Close Invoice Finance sales director David Butler tackles the issue.
I HAVE to admit that many employees are deeply suspicious of CSR and the contribution it makes both to their working life and the environment. There are those that see it as pointless and unrelated to core business activities. But this view is fast becoming out of date.
As technological advances have progressed apace, the CSR card has been played alongside and the results are swaying the opinions of even the most doubting of employees and industry commentators.
For example, Close Invoice Finance recently launched an online invoice discounting product called IDeal. By using this system, which integrates with all standard software accountancy packages, our clients' statements, cash sheets, invoices and schedules can now be produced electronically, saving around 1.6 million sheets of A4 each year.
The launch of IDeal has been one of our most successful product launches in recent times. To us, this demonstrates that those businesses that regard CSR activities as part of their overall new product development and marketing plans are those that can reap the benefits.
CSR, of course, can be implemented at a number of levels. At one end of the scale, responsibility can be regarded as basic factors such as the need to provide employees with safe working conditions. Ideally, though, it should also extend out into the wider local community and demonstrate environmental awareness.
Some businesses will say that CSR is the responsibility of the government and legislative intervention, whether environmentally or socially led, is not required when a business is already being responsible by providing employment.
At an ideological level, this argument can be extended to say that business encourages competitive free market enterprise, and free market capitalism is more effective than interference by politicians.
Personally, I see there is a good deal of force in these arguments. But, on balance, CSR makes the mark because it is pure common sense. Potentially, it is a very powerful brand-building tool which allows us to support both customers and employees. It is also an asset which can help enhance both community and environment. I wouldn't call that an imposed liability