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CSR Is Much More than a Branding Exercise

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming more of a strategic advantage as organizations look to align themselves with partners that embrace good corporate citizenship. A rising social consciousness is inspiring the best companies to be premier corporate citizens, not only to provide exceptional value and service to customers but also to do “good” in the communities in which they work, live and serve.

CSR can create many benefits for all stakeholders involved that extend well beyond assisting those in need. For the CEO, CSR strengthens brand and reputation. For employees, it increases engagement and a sense of pride in their employer. For customers, CSR enhances trust and willingness to do more business.

The ROI of CSR

We know that “doing good” is good for business, but the exact return on investment for CSR programs remains hard to measure. I believe that companies that make CSR a core pillar of their global contact center outsourcing operations, for example, directly impacts their employee morale, agent tenure, the health of the communities where they work, and importantly, their customers’ bottom-line.

Since launching our own CSR efforts in 2007, in addition to a direct benefit to the people who need it most, we have seen:

  • A decrease in our call center attrition rates;
  • A related increase in agent tenure providing program stability and better client experiences;
  • Lower agent hiring and training costs for our clients;
  • An increase in our employee satisfaction indexes;
  • An increase in our employee engagement scores;
  • A recognition of “Top Employer” status in both Central America and the Philippines; and
  • Several industry awards, including TELUS, our parent company, being recognized as the most philanthropic company globally by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, further enhancing our brand and attracting talent to our centers.

Launching a Successful CSR Program

While the value of a comprehensive CSR program can’t be understated, organizations may be unaware of the implications and costs of such a program. From building villages in the Philippines to transforming schools for young children in Central America, there are several characteristics that define a successful CSR program.

Do it for the right reasons – At a time when decent wages and benefits are table stakes, a CSR program can seem like an attractive way to recruit new talent and help strengthen a company’s brand in the market. However, in order to remain authentic, it is critical that all levels of management are committed to a comprehensive CSR program for the right reasons — and not simply for financial gains.

Don’t go it alone – One of the first things to do when considering a CSR program is to think about your CSR partners. Working with local organizations can lend credibility to your efforts while increasing local exposure and overall community goodwill.

Be in it for the long haul – Positive buzz around an employer takes years to develop. Our experience in the Philippines since 2007 through our dedication to several homelessness initiatives has seen more than 4,800 volunteers commit over 28,000 volunteer hours, with a commitment to build almost 200 homes for the nation’s poorest families. Over successive years of service, we have seen our employees become increasingly engaged in the project, to the extent that many continue to volunteer regularly throughout the entire year. This sort of relationship takes time to develop and can only result from a long-term commitment.

Consider cost and time required – Many employers are surprised at the amount of time and money a successful CSR program takes. From planning to logistics to the cost of the CSR activities themselves, CSR is not free.

Seek out hidden talents – CSR programs can be an important differentiators in terms of employee engagement. There is also the opportunity to discover hidden talent. CSR programs can provide opportunities for employees to get experience leading a team or organizing a project. By creating new projects that sit outside the day-to-day operations, employees can demonstrate they have what it takes to do more.

Celebrate success – One of the most important components of a vibrant and impactful CSR program is to ensure people know about it not just externally to build corporate reputation, but internally as well. One strategy we have introduced is to film most of our events and then play them in call centers so employees can see the power of shared accomplishment. This gives team morale a big boost.

In the end, a good CSR program extends well beyond brand promotion to the point where, if done right, it can even define a company and its culture.

Jeffrey Puritt is president of TELUS International – a provider of BPO and contact center solutions to global clients. TELUS International is the global arm of TELUS, a leading national telecommunications company in Canada, with $10.3 billion of annual revenue and 12.6 million customer connections.

 

Jeffrey Puritt
Jeffrey Puritt is President of TELUS International – a provider of BPO and contact center solutions to global clients, backed by TELUS, a leading Canadian telco with $9.9 billion of annual revenue and 12.3 million customer connections. In 2010, TELUS was named the world’s most philanthropic company corporation by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. For more information, visit: www.telusinternational.com.
 
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3 thoughts on “CSR Is Much More than a Branding Exercise

  1. Jeffrey,

    Great article. You do an incredible job of laying out what should be understood as one of the most important aspects of CSR – alignment with corporate objectives.

    I have been engaged in an interesting scholarly debate that I wonder if you might be interested in weighing in on. Within your article you evoked two separate terms, Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Citizenship. Do you see these terms as interchangeable? Does it cause you intrigue and/or concern when you see them used interchangeably by companies?

    It seems that companies often move back and forth between the uses of these terms, with sustainability through in and out of the mix. Archie Carroll (1998) in his article titled The Four Faces of Corporate Citizenship suggested that the areas of economic, legal and ethical business practices fall within corporate responsibility, whereas the more philanthropic endeavors are examples of corporate citizenship. By this analysis it would seem that we should be referring to these various areas of corporate responsibility and corporate citizenship separately as to not confuse the receiver to the meaning of our messaging. Or, possibly that the term corporate social responsibility encompasses both, and if therefore is used should be used without the accompaniment of corporate citizenship.

    The conversation might seem to some like splitting hairs, but as a communication student, I am intrigued by how and why companies choose the words that they use. I have a mentor who is a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company that is a fan of saying “words matter,” and they do. I wonder how much thought executives are giving to their use of the terms CSR and CC, and the intent meaning they wish to convey to the receiver through their use.

    Jerad Boyd
    Graduate Student
    http://www.drury.edu

  2. Your article was very refreshing Jeffrey. I run a marketing agency in Nigeria and we specialize in Corporate Responsibility, as some companies outsource this function due to lack of understanding or specialization of the concept. Our biggest challenge has been getting organizations to align Corporate Responsibility with their core Corporate Objectives and culture, as most organizations look at it as a marketing tool or simply a short-term philanthropic exercise. I’m so glad to see’ you get it’, as it is rear for corporate executives or managers to truly understand the concept and care enough to ‘do the right thing’.
    Abimbola

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