Dr Kyoko Fukukawa is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Bradford University School of Management and a member of the Marketing, Strategy and International Business group. She specialises in research on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ethical decision-making in consumption and business practices.
In this blog, Dr Fukukawa introduces Bradford Chamber of Commerce’s Raising the Bar CSR awards initiative, and explores the contributions that SMEs can make to CSR policy and good practice.
I was invited to act as judge for a new CSR awards initiative in Bradford.
Raising the Bar is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) awards initiative organised by Bradford Chamber of Commerce. The aim of the scheme is to encourage as many firms as possible to get involved and to promote good practice among four categories: environment, economy, education and community.
The awards ceremony took place in November, and I was delighted to present the overall winner award to Bradford-based Rance Booth Smith Architects Ltd.
I had been invited to act as a judge for the awards, and was intrigued to learn what “good” practice would look like locally, as well as what CSR means for firms in the area. Here are some of the features of companies that show excellence in their CSR practice.
1. Awareness and sharing of current CSR practices
Multinational enterprises are often the focal point for discussion around CSR, while SMEs are all too frequently overlooked as merely part of the supply chain.
Inevitably, with strength in resource and global reach, larger companies tend to drive policy development and project dissemination. But as I argued in my 2010 book, CSR in Asia, a lack of evidence or clear articulation about “being socially responsible” does not necessarily mean that an organisation lacks integrity and social awareness.
My experience is that many companies are not necessarily always aware that what they are doing is worthy of reporting.
But the impact of globalisation and an ever-complex business scene has led to ever-greater demands for transparency and recognition. This leads me onto point 2.
2. Transparency and openness
It was great to see so many smaller companies stepping into the limelight to put themselves forward for the Raising the Bar awards as an explicit gesture of a company’s commitment to CSR and willingness to be open to public scrutiny. Organisational transparency is considered a key element of CSR practice in itself.
3. Connecting with the local community
A key strength among local enterprises, regardless of their size, is proximity to the local community. A strong presence and/or visibility over the long term is key. Employers and employees are part of the community, so know more about a community’s needs and how best to help and support them.
4. The power of the ‘individual’ in ‘corporate’ responsibility
When we know the faces of those who work hard to support the local community we can more readily see and appreciate the achievements being made in the domains of education, community, environment and economy.
It is individuals who exemplify a sense of responsibility that in turn collectively makes up what we call corporate responsibility. When we ask what makes up corporate responsibility, the answer is already present: we are the answer.
5. CSR activities that are built in, not bolted on
With local knowledge, organisations that have the desire to make a difference to local communities can do so much more effectively. Greater understanding of, and love for, the local area can arguably make the drive for social responsibility greater. Activities are genuinely built-in, not bolted on, to what a business does within and for its community – these are the most effective.
Participating in the Raising the Bar judging process was inspiring for me, both as an academic and as resident of Bradford nurturing a young family over the last ten years.
I was very pleased to know that for the business community of Bradford, values such as contributing to the community and economy, educating future generations and making best efforts to preserve the environment are integral to local business practices.
Those who entered for the award presented cases that can inspire fellow businesses. This award helps share and promote good practice, and raises the bar for the future of CSR in Bradford and its surrounding area.
The inaugural awards ceremony for Raising the Bar created a genuine buzz among local Bradford enterprises and the wider community. Hopefully the scheme will run for some time to come, allowing for more people to engage locally in both the spirit and practice of CSR. It will surely help foster and maintain greater engagement among various stakeholders (e.g. local enterprise, the community, universities, the Chamber of Commerce and local authorities), so helping to establish a new norm for forward going activities.
For details of the nominated businesses and category winners see the Raising the Bar website: http://www.raising-the-bar.org.uk | see also ‘Companies honoured in new awards’ (Telegraph & Argus): http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/10843311.Companies_honoured_in_new_awards/