BusinessCompany NewsFD’s view: take responsibility

FD's view: take responsibility

Last month’s Business in the Community awards will have made many companies reassess their attitudes towards corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The pressure to act frequently comes from employees themselves. When asked
about factors affecting career choice and contentment, they increasingly cite
CSR. A survey of 800 MBA students conducted in 2004 found that 97% would forgo
14% of expected income to join an organisation with a superior reputation for
CSR.

Similarly, there is increasing interest in corporate citizenship in the
financial community. Never mind the impact of CSR on a firm’s reputation; 83% of
FDs surveyed in 2002 said that a strong corporate reputation boosts stock value.

It is vital, though, that CSR is not seen as a ‘nice to have’ to be fitted
around ‘real’ business. To be worthwhile, firms must link CSR programmes to the
bottom line. And who is better placed than the FD to make the connection.

Clearly a balance must be struck between corporate objectives and giving
something back to the community. But CSR need not be about giving money away:
it’s possible to spend existing budgets more wisely.

Often the most effective approach is the simplest: using core business skills
to assist the community. As a software company, we are able to provide
technology to securely connect schools in far-flung parts of the world and run
email mentoring programmes with local schools.

So how can worthy CSR intentions be turned into corporate action? My advice
is to convey the risk of not acting.

Increasingly, customers are demanding evidence of ethical behaviour when
awarding contracts. And in a survey by the World Economic Forum, over 70% of
CEOs predicted that mainstream investors will take an increased interest in
corporate citizenship.

But why wait for the CEO to act? The FD is well placed to make the case for
CSR. To ignore the potential benefits would be irresponsible – even unethical.

Norman Green is vice president of finance at Oracle UK, Ireland and South
Africa

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