Is it Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Philanthropy, Corporate Giving? How many fancy names do we have for simply ‘helping people out’?
Our world is inundated with corporate talk and buzzwords – we seem to have lost the essence of what “giving” is really about. In fact, CSR has become a strategy used by businesses more because they “should”, to enhance their brand, gain market share, and build their competitive advantage. But wouldn’t that also be the result if we were authentically motivated to give? You know, the kind of giving my young kids are learning in school. The kind our parents taught most of us.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled to see an increasing number of companies adopt ways to enhance the wellbeing of others. After all, the role of business in society is much more than creating “shareholder value”. Businesses and their leaders need to remember the simple concept of being a good neighbour. Businesses don’t stand alone – we are part of an eco system, a community. We take from the community so we must give back to it. I like how Mr. Einstein put it when he said, “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” – It is also every business’ obligation.
We’ve always believed in the importance of accountability at ING DIRECT. Not just to shareholders, but to everyone – our clients, our employees, the public and our regulators. Our focus on accountability means we need to make sure that everything we do fits with our purpose, which is to help Canadians live better lives. Sure, as a business we need to be profitable, but we also care about the difference we are making in people’s lives. The motivation to help is part of our DNA, it is our foundation, and that is what makes it easy for us to be exceptionally responsible.
Of course, we are required to publically share information about our efforts, and I find it tremendously rewarding to report on all of the great community work our team has accomplished. You will find our Statement of Public Accountability and Corporate Responsibility here. And if you read through it, you’ll see all the ways in which we have been active in Canada and each community where we live, work and service our wonderful clients.
What you might not see in the document, is the impact that our efforts have on what I believe is our most vital stakeholder group – our employees. The opinion of our employees matters a great deal to me. We spend more time at work today than ever before and we want our work to make a positive difference in the world.
As the leader of ING DIRECT in Canada, my focus has been on allowing our employees to direct the majority of our giving efforts. They decide where our resources will be allocated and who they would like to help with our time and money – because in my experience, people give 100% of their energy when they care or maybe 60% when they don’t.
Most of our over 1000 employees volunteer their time toward the causes they believe in and we as an organization back them up. Our team insists that we get out in our communities, roll up our sleeves, and pitch in. We also get our clients involved. Through social media, we have been able to engage our customers for ideas on where they feel we should be contributing.
It means a lot to us to be able to invest our time and financial support in causes that we collectively believe in. This approach has generated a great source of pride, trust and engagement among our employees. They get a sense of fulfillment from their work, a purpose as well as an organization whose values match their own. Having a stellar and authentic corporate reputation externally is crucial. So is having it internally.
Giving or CSR, if we’re going to use a term for it, is not a feel-good public relations goal or marketing strategy. It’s not about aligning your brand to the right cause either. It is a commitment an organization makes to be responsible members of the community.