What does corporate social responsibility look like these days? April’s Responsible Business Week seeks to spark conversations about the power of companies to make things better.
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What does a responsible business look like?

Last week, the Sunday Times announced its top employers of 2016. The paper’s survey gives employees the opportunity to take the measure of their workplace, and this year nearly a quarter of a million of them had something to say.

Britain’s best employers motivate their staff with a culture that reaches beyond profit.

In the past we’ve written about the importance of organisational culture to employees’ wellbeing and, by extension, their engagement. What the Sunday Times’ list of winners all have in common is that their employees enjoy high rates of workplace wellbeing, they develop under strong leadership and they get the opportunity to give back to society. In short, Britain’s best employers motivate their staff with a culture that reaches beyond profit, one that takes account of their employees’ needs as well as wider social issues.

Responsible businesses take people pressures into account

Right now in the UK, more than three million people combine their work with caring responsibilities. Mounting pressures like money troubles and poor quality of sleep have serious implications for mental and physical health. Meanwhile, long-term sick leave, often related to stress and depression, makes up just 5% of absences but accounts for 40% of time lost to ill-health.

More inclusive policies and better working conditions will become increasingly important.

Add to this the UK’s ageing population and changing trends in public health and society, and it’s clear that better working conditions and more inclusive policies will only become increasingly important. Clearly, there’s a need for companies to consider the needs and vulnerabilities of the whole person when thinking about the responsibilities of the employer.

Responsible employers consider vulnerabilities

Last year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) drew attention to another issue around businesses’ considerations of vulnerability. The FCA’s paper on consumer vulnerability highlighted the risk to vulnerable people when companies’ frontline staff are not trained to recognise that some customers need support.

How employees respond to customers with learning disabilities, serious illnesses or who are experiencing traumas like bereavement or divorce is crucial to customers’ experience and outcomes. What the paper stressed is that responsible businesses need to train frontline staff to be able to recognise when someone is struggling and response appropriately.

Growing the responsible business movement

One organisation working towards a fairer society and a more sustainable future is Business in the Community (BITC). BITC is growing the responsible business movement by promoting what employers are doing to support their staff and wider society.

The organisation is looking to spark interest in these issues during Responsible Business Week, which runs from 18 to 22 April. The campaign seeks to initiate more conversations on the power of corporate social responsibility (CSR) by encouraging companies to talk about what they’re doing to make things better. The CSR initiatives BITC is seeking to promote cover employees, community, environment and marketplace. They can include things like wellbeing activities, inclusion and diversity initiatives, mental health programmes, support for vulnerable customers and wider community initiatives.

Responsible business is about giving employees the tools to help others, and to help themselves. A business that supports the systems on which it depends – the employees, the customers, the environment and wider society – will ensure its sustainability. So, why don’t you take the opportunity to use Responsible Business Week to communicate what being a responsible business means to your organisation?