Businesses increasingly offering more than “cash and philanthropy” when it comes to CSR, forum hears

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Multinational corporations are starting to play a core role in disaster response, but the process and HR planning that goes into these CSR activities cannot be overstated, delegates at the JustGiving CSR Forum in London were told yesterday.

Clare Jenkinson, international programme manager, Business in the Community told delegates: "Businesses are playing much more of a core role in disaster response through their, and their staff's, capabilities, skills and innovations. It's not just cash and philanthropy."

But she warned companies risked doing more harm than good unless all the processes and HR issues had been forensically planned in advance, in partnership with NGOs.

Jenkinson advised businesses to come up with a solid emergency response strategy, to help them deciding how, when and if to respond locally, regionally or globally to any disaster, and also how to involve employees.

Also speaking at the event, which covered CSR and employee engagement on a global scale, were Phil McGraa, UK charity campaign manager at Airbus, and Sandra Hennessy, corporate and communication and affairs manager at Reckitt Benckiser.

"It is a challenge to get employees engaged from a global perspective as people often feel they want to do something locally," said Hennessey. "So it's important employees understand what the work is that we are supporting locally and see that work in action." Reckitt Benckiser employees around the world raised £3.5 million for Save the Children last year.

At Airbus, which has its own charitable foundation, McGraa said that communication and awareness were crucial in spreading the CSR message in a global company, especially when there might be cultural differences.

Angie Turner, head of corporate and major donors at The Children's Trust, said that she expected employee volunteering to become even more popular in 2013. "This must be supported, in terms of time and budget, by the organisation," she added.

She also advised companies to appoint charity champions, from all levels, in order to take some of the pressure off CSR managers.

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