Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is something that many companies regard as a nice-to-have, a way to virtue signal, or a way to limit the harm their business causes in terms of things like emissions. This is not how we see social responsibility at Clear Click. Today, we’re taking a closer look at what the term means to us and what our goals are in terms of giving back.
Why we invest in corporate social responsibility as an SME
The website Investopedia has this to say about corporate social responsibility:
“Companies that adopt CSR programs have often grown their business to the point where they can give back to society. Thus, CSR is typically a strategy that's implemented by large corporations. After all, the more visible and successful a corporation is, the more responsibility it has to set standards of ethical behaviour for its peers, competition, and industry.”
We don’t think this is enough. Social responsibility shouldn’t be regarded as something that companies have to do in order to appease stakeholders and appeal to the wider public. It’s also not something that should be left only to large corporations with similarly large budgets.
We all inhabit the same communities and the same planet, so caring for them is on all of us. Businesses of all sizes can find corporate social responsibility initiatives they can get involved in and excited about – and the benefits of this spread wider than you may think.
The three Ps of social responsibility
The author and entrepreneur John Elkington came up with the term “triple bottom line” in 1994. It’s a framework often represented as a Venn diagram comprising of what are called the three Ps: people, planet and profit. Where these three meet is where you can find sustainability.
However, in 2019, he announced in the Harvard Business Review that he’d like to recall the term. Why?
The reason was certainly not that the need for corporate responsibility had diminished in any way. If anything, it’s needed now more than ever. Instead, Elkington argues that the true meaning of the so-called three Ps has been lost or misinterpreted.
The triple bottom line is often described as an accounting tool, but it was meant to be much more than that – it was meant to make us all think about the future of capitalism and bring forth innovation and disruption. Too often, the focus of the people and planet part of the equation focuses only on limiting harm, while pursuing profit – simple revenue – remains the most important part.
People and planet
In terms of the triple bottom line model, “people” refers to:
- Your employees
- Their families
People-centric social responsibility schemes may involve different philanthropic projects such as employee wellness programmes and donations and volunteer days at things like cancer charities or food banks.
Meanwhile, “planet” encapsulates the impact the business has on the environment, including limiting its carbon footprint as well as its use of natural resources and toxic materials (limiting harm). It also entails proactive initiatives around things like the removal of waste, reforestation and other restoration projects (making progress).
Profit vs prosperity
Profit is where many organisations fundamentally misinterpret the triple bottom line. Profit is too often reduced to simple financial profit when John Elkington meant the word in a much broader sense, including wider economic impact such as:
- Creating employment
- Generating innovation
- Paying taxes
- Creating wealth
This definition of profit has much wider implications that can positively impact people and the planet. It has more focus on social than financial profit. For this reason, it might make more sense to think about this part of the triple bottom line equation as prosperity rather than profit. This word is closer to the kind of economic impact originally implicated in the framework.
Clear Click’s CSR commitments
We subscribe to the idea that corporate social responsibility should entail not just limiting harm, but actively making progress in terms of people and the planet. We also believe that doing good business means much more than simple financial profit. For this reason, we want to put our money where our mouth is.
This means creating an organisation that’s not only a great place to work and do business with, but that also gives back – not as a way to simply reduce harm or as a PR trick, but as a way to make a genuine positive difference.
At present, Clear Click is signed up for Ecologi’s Climate Positive Workforce® initiative. Ecologi is a UK-based social enterprise aimed at offsetting business carbon emissions by investing in carbon avoidance projects and planting trees to help combat rising temperatures. The Climate Positive Workforce® initiative plants ten trees a month and reduces nine tonnes of carbon emissions annually for each employee.
We see this as only the beginning of Clear Click’s social responsibility journey. As we go forward, we want to identify and invest in worthy causes that support people and the planet. Have any ideas for where we could make a difference? Drop us an email and let us know!