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Loneliness and homelessness 'least popular' CSR issues

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Reducing loneliness (25%), tackling homelessness (25%), and providing better care for older people (28%) are the least popular CSR issues among businesses, a survey has revealed.

The Business to Society Survey, commissioned by PR firm Forster Communications, found that 57% of business leaders believe they should be doing more to tackle social issues, while 63% of consumers believe the same.

The areas companies feel most inclined to help tackle are assisting people into employment (80%), supporting local communities (71%) and environmental issues (68%).

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, told HR magazine it was disappointing that loneliness ranked so low. “Loneliness and isolation are as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We know that life transitions such as retirement can be a major trigger of loneliness because it can significantly reduce a person’s social connections in later life,” she said.

Alison Williams, director of young people and families for employment and skills service Prospects, was heartened that assisting people into employment was a key CSR issue for businesses. She pointed out that being active here could create a virtuous circle, with all organisations benefitting from widening the talent pool, particularly in regards to young people.

“Young people are an untapped resource,” she told HR magazine. “They bring real benefits to a business with their enthusiasm, fresh ideas and insights, and willingness to learn. Most of all young people provide organisations with a future. Without new young talent businesses can grow tired and insular; missing out on new innovations, technology and markets. Doing the right thing by young people ensures businesses are doing the right thing for themselves.”

The survey also highlighted the importance of CSR in general, with 53% of consumers saying they are more likely to give their custom to a business with a strong stance on social and environmental issues.

Additionally, four in 10 (40%) would be more likely to donate to a charity or cause if it was endorsed by a business they trusted, and 36% would be more likely to sign up to a campaign.

Richard Tyrie, CEO and founder of social enterprise consultancy GoodPeople, told HR magazine that the importance of demonstrating social responsibility is rising up the agenda for companies.

“Businesses that want to hire super social, well-informed millennials – who are rapidly becoming the largest segment of employees and consumers – will need to demonstrate their social credentials if they are to engage this generation,” he said. “It’s one of the key considerations of this brand-savvy generation, who have grown up with a much sharper focus on environmental issues, and a deeper sense of global interconnectedness.

“Historically social responsibility would have been an annex; external to main business functions like marketing, employment and procurement. But now the more enlightened organisations are needing to consider their social impact across various business functions,” he added.