Some of New Zealand’s largest businesses are lagging behind their international counterparts in their levels of corporate social responsibility (CSR) according to new data.
The research which measured CSR performance across more than 17,000 businesses globally found New Zealand companies ranked just 33 out of 36 countries across the CSR criteria of community, employees, governance and environment.
New Zealand general manager of GSK Anna Stove says Kiwi companies are potentially missing opportunities from a growing, ethically conscious market, and at the same time have an obligation to support social causes beyond their immediate interest in short-term profits.
“Increasingly, CSR information is used by customers, suppliers, employees and investors to make socially responsible decisions about who to buy from, transact with, work with and invest in.
“It is becoming essential for businesses to extend the traditional measurement of their financial outcomes to include a degree of their social impact as an indicator of performance – in other words, create a double bottom line,” she says.
Stove says organisations can’t commit to sustainable social investment unless they are profitable.
“While business scale helps provide the resources required for major ethical initiatives, it is the development of an organisational mindset that is the real prerequisite we need to effect change,” she says.
Stove says CSR has now evolved to become a key consideration for prospective employees and this trend is being driven by a demographic shift in the employment market.
“Millennials are expected to make up half of the global workforce by 2020 – and this generation more than others, is seeking a social conscience in the companies they work for.
“Ten years ago, a job candidate would talk about their interest in the products the business sells during an interview, while today the focus is on a company’s work in the community – this marks a major shift in one of the primary drivers of employment decisions,” she says.
Stove says that more research is needed to determine why New Zealand ranked below other markets in the latest study.
“While there could be a number of methodological reasons why NZ companies performed at this level that are difficult to identify, the results are a timely reminder for our organisations to assess their investment in CSR.
“If our corporate efforts don’t support our approach to marketing New Zealand’s identity, we will start to see an erosion of our nation’s brand equity. That’s something that will affect our tourism market but also other key parts of our economy like the agricultural sector which seek a premium for our food products,” she says.
She says it’s important to ensure that when an organisation develops their double bottom line strategy that the chosen causes align with the company’s values.
“Locally we are investing in the health and wellbeing of Kiwi children is important to us, which is why we invest in children’s charities, including suicide prevention which has seen us fund Youthline’s support line for two decades, as well as KidsCan and Save the Children working to address child poverty,
Stove says GSK’s global partnership with Save the Children combines scientific expertise and resource with the charity’s on-the-ground knowledge and the organisations aim to save the lives of 1 million children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
“Choosing the right charities to align with is a critical part of getting buy-in from your team and stakeholders. The first step is to conduct due diligence on the organisation, then look at making a long term social investment.
“The aim should be to develop a true partnership which is sustainable as charities may struggle if a supporting partner providing a significant annual donation drops out,” she says.
Stove believes at the same time, contributions must go beyond the financial.
“For employees to feel connected to the company’s social efforts it’s important for them to have direct contact with the charity which can be achieved by giving staff time off to support the organisation,
“Developing a connection with socially positive projects helps employees come to work with a sense of purpose,” she says.