CSR at Warburtons: Far from half-baked

The number of companies tying CSR into their business objectives is low, which misses a huge opportunity

Most organisations have incorporated an element of corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their company values. From ad hoc charity fundraising to full-scale high impact investments, demonstrating a commitment to our communities and environments is no longer just a ‘nice to have'.

But the number of companies that are tying CSR initiatives into their business objectives is lower, and for me this misses a huge opportunity – for both companies and their employees.

There’s no shame in benefitting from CSR. It doesn’t make an organisation any less compassionate or ethical. It simply means that the results can also have a positive effect on the business itself.

Since Warburtons funded my training to become a Girls Out Loud ‘Big Sister’, I’ve seen how a CSR programme that’s well aligned with business objectives can have a positive impact on current and future employees.

Girls Out Loud trains professional women as mentors before partnering them with ‘Little Sisters' – teenage girls in local schools who are struggling with issues such as confidence and self-esteem.

More widely the programme aims to encourage more girls to aim for the top. Currently, just one in six of the largest companies’ senior executives are women. We need to make sure young girls believe they can get there.

Personally it’s amazing to see my ‘Little Sister’ thrive. But as a HR professional I can also see how it has benefitted me as an employee and Warburtons as an employer – helping us to achieve three of our HR goals:

Nurturing homegrown talent

My role as a ‘Big Sister’ puts me in front of a number of talented local teenagers who need someone to believe in them. These young people quickly become young adults so are the graduates, apprentices and leaders of tomorrow.

Exposing your brand to the next generation of employees is hugely valuable in ensuring that you’re seen as a top destination for hardworking and enthusiastic staff. I’m also proud to work for a company that wants to nurture tomorrow’s female employees, and which has proven its commitment to them.

Personal and professional development

92% of people think that volunteering improves employees’ skillsets; stretching yourself in a new environment can really enhance your abilities in a way in-house training simply can’t.

And you might be surprised at which roles end up developing which skills. I didn’t start working with schools expecting to improve my negotiation skills. But I soon learnt that if you can earn the respect of a group of teenagers you can win around anyone!

Inspiring and motivating our people

With employee retention a high priority for almost one in three businesses, keeping staff motivated, inspired and loyal is at the top of many HR leaders’ lists.

Getting people involved in projects that reflect the company’s values demonstrates they have chosen to work with an organisation they can be proud to represent. Many employees now say that their company’s mission and values are an important factor in how happy and productive they are at work. And people who are happy at work don’t tend to leave.

Ultimately the key objective of my mentoring was to make a difference to the young girls of Blackburn by helping them to believe in themselves. But the programme has made me happier and more inspired at work too and this is a key objective for HR teams that want to earn the loyalty of their staff.

Caroline Wood is HR business partner at Warburtons