We recently surveyed over 200 HR professionals and even though 82% feel that CSR is important to their company and 75% said they have either a formal or informal CSR programme in place, more than half of those people feel their company could be doing more with CSR. So who is driving CSR across UK organisations? 32% said it was a collaborative approach business wide and 27% said it was the Board of Directors which I find encouraging. We all know that programmes supported by the leaders of the business will always be far more successful long term.

In my own research on CSR I came across the ‘Apple environment’ video, only a couple of minutes long, talking about what Apple want to do as an organisation to leave the planet ‘in a better position from when they found it’. Another case study also came to my attention, from a large financial services firm, who proudly outlined their CSR was directly supported in their ‘reward structure’ allowing employees to carbon offset by offering the cycle to work scheme or donating to a charity through payroll. Bit of a cop out? I think so.

As a small business we may not have the same resources or budget for CSR compared to that of large corporates but when it comes to impact and a genuine desire to leave things better than when we started, money doesn’t always equal effectiveness.

We were lucky enough to have an expert panel of speakers join us in London for our Q2 breakfast seminar last week headlined ‘CSR Insight and Initiatives’. City Action (part of the City of London Corporation) support and drive CSR programmes in the square mile and we are delighted to have used their free service ourselves to create our very first formalised CSR programme. We have chosen to partner with an education charity and our ‘guru lectures,’ in which we will be sharing our skills and expertise in helping school leavers prepare for the world of work.

David Perry, HR Director at the professional services firm Maitland, shared the details of how his organisation partners with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF). The NMCF was set up in South Africa in 1994 and the UK affiliate in 1996. The fund helps around 90,000 children every year and Maitland house staff from the NMCF UK in their London offices and also contribute money towards headcount. The NMCF in the UK has to date raised over £10 million for the fund. This truly is a great example of how even a small firm (Maitland employ 780 people) can make a real impact through a genuine long-term commitment to something they think is important for the organisation to support.

Finally, it was Emma Cockerton (an experienced HR Director from the world of financial services) who left us with some practical tips on setting up meaningful CSR with or without a budget. She said, after deciding what is important to your organisation and the people in it, decide on the cause or causes to support, develop a 3-5 year plan and lock in a time and/or financial commitment. On top of that, there are always small things that can be done day-to-day that can make an impact without taking too much time, effort or cost. It’s not always about writing a cheque or volunteering with a charity. It could be using only recycled paper, using local suppliers/supporting local business or ensuring you are being energy efficient.

We all know the benefits of CSR and should never underestimate the impact that it has not just on our organisation (attracting talent, engaging staff etc.) but for the charities/causes they support. With so many funding cuts/strains, many charities/causes are feeling the pinch of the past few years, it really is up to the private sector to step up and help the people who want to help others.