“It’s no good to help a charity just for charity’s sake,” Stephenson told HR magazine. “HR should focus on a real business problem, and see where CSR can fit into that.”
Stephenson used a former experience as group HR and property director at DFS to highlight this in action. “We found that when people wanted to buy a new sofa one of the first things they did was search online for how to get rid of their old one,” he said. “We realised the British Heart Foundation had a desperate shortage of sofas to sell in its charity stores.
“So we partnered with them to enable our customers to easily donate their sofas to the Foundation. This made DFS the biggest heart research supporter in the UK. It also solved a problem faced by our customers.”
Automotive dealership Lookers has partnered with 353, a charity that supports members of the military community. As part of its CSR programme the firm organised a track day where attendees could see a variety of the brands Lookers sells in one place, while raising money for the charity. “It can be hard of us to come up with ways to showcase the brands we sell all in the same place,” Stephenson explained. “But this was a chance to help our chosen charity and raise awareness of our products.”
Under Stephenson’s guidance DFS won an HR Excellence Award for its CSR strategy in 2015. “That was a great employee engagement tool,” he said. “It was a chance for us to show our employees that what we’re doing is making a difference, and people outside the business were noticing and validating us.
“CSR isn’t just something you do because you feel you have to,” he added. “It’s a chance to both make a difference and support your business objectives at the same time.”