Corporate responsibility means community involvement

Corporate citizenship is the concept of caring about the community in which you live and work. It’s a simple phrase that can have a multitude of applications.

Wil Pineau, chief executive officer of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, said that businesses with a good sense of citizenship embrace responsibility for the impact of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and other members of the community.

“The business promotes the public interest by encouraging community growth and development and voluntarily eliminating practices that may harm the community. A good corporate citizen includes the public interest into its decision making and honours the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit,” he explained.

In a relatively small place, particularly, relationships are key to success and it is vital that companies actively involve themselves with the community that surrounds them.

“The many ways a company conducts business and support its community establishes whether that company is a good corporate citizen. For Home Gas, the ways in which we actively participate in our community is based on our core values. At the very heart of the Home Gas brand is a firm focus on safety, family values, and caring for the environment,” said Katie O’Neill of that company.

Another way to look at it, offered Janette Goodman, director of Human Resources at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, is to thoughtfully decide how the business can make a positive impact or a lasting change within the communities in which it does business.

“In selecting how to focus this energy within a business I believe there are two schools of thought. One [could be] speaking with your teams to determine their collective interests and motivations to help, or two, determining what the biggest need in the community is and how a company can affect the lives of many through their efforts. This does not necessarily mean money; it also means involvement and commitment.”

Small businesses, too, can make a difference as there are so many different ways in which individuals and businesses can get involved.

“A business can volunteer their time and or special services. Some may decide to promote events and activities by sharing information with their customers. Some sponsor special fundraising activities in their offices to help raise money for a particular cause or charity. Some provide information to their staff and allow organisation representatives to deliver special presentations and information. There are so many good causes to support, so it will be important for the charity or association to remember to be creative, credible and accountable.”

Charitable causes
You would be hard-pressed to find a company that does not now have a policy or series of policies that are wound into the heart of its operations; no longer an afterthought but an intrinsic part of the business focus itself. Corporate and fiduciary service giant the Walkers Group may be, but when it comes to on-the-ground operations there is a corporate and social responsibility programme that has developed to actively support charitable causes across their many jurisdictions, said David Byrne, chief marketing officer of Walkers.

“[We focus] on arts and educational initiatives for children and conservation programmes. The most recent addition to our programme is the Walkers’ Charity Day, which is designed to give as many charitable organisations and worthy causes seeking sponsorship as possible the opportunity to receive financial support from Walkers.”

Companies of all sizes can make a difference to the communities in which they operate simply by thinking about their role on a wider basis. Anyone can sign a cheque, but there are other things that can be done, which are of as much value, explained Mr. Byrne.

“We believe that every little bit helps and allowing staff to volunteer can be just as important as making financial contributions and also fosters a real sense of teamwork and accomplishment.”

Companies of all sizes can consider whether they can make a difference in many ways, continued Ms Goodman. There’s always the possibility of financial impact and intellectual impact such as sharing expertise on a nonprofit board. Also, companies could consider investing in the future through helping students learn more about their industry through open days at the facility or reaching out to the schools with visits and talks. There’s also the concept of sweat equity, she said.

“[That’s] taking care of the community’s resources through roadside or beach cleanups, recycling, creating a programme to educate on conservation/reduction of waste and ensuring that the business is also meeting the same expectations.” The latter observation is important in terms of self-regulation of a business and being truly thoughtful as to the impact of its presence on not just the community but the environment and ethical standards. In this sense, corporate citizenship can be also defined as having a strong sense of operational business ethics.

Community outreach and corporate involvement are often at their most effective when the programmes chosen mesh with the personality and business ethos of the company itself. Home Gas, for example, involves itself with sports programmes for the youth as well as sponsoring sports teams, said Ms O’Neill.

“Involving young people in sports is an excellent way to build their self confidence, keep them physically active and teach them new skills. It can mean all the difference in the paths they choose to take later in life.”

Corporate giving
Indeed, added Mr. Pineau, depending on resources, businesses reserve special days to assist with community projects, to volunteer time and talent to local and international charities. There is a substantial level of corporate giving in the Cayman community, which supports many different charities, he said.

“Businesses benefit from the positive association that they receive and the good will that this generates within the community. If a business is seen helping a charity or an association, then consumers may decide to support them because they see the business returning some of its profits  and or resources to the community. Some businesses may decide to support initiatives because they are passionate about the cause and they want to make a difference without any need for recognition. In fact, some businesses provide support without requiring any publicity whatsoever.”

Other companies may involve themselves with Cayman-specific programmes such as the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, the National Trust or specific arts organisations and national festivals. It is extremely important for businesses to be responsible in terms of community engagement, said Mr. Pineau.

“No business is an island operating in isolation. Responsible businesses become engaged in the community and try their best to support initiatives that will make our Islands a better place to live and conduct business. The Cayman Islands is a small community so corporate social responsibility is an essential ingredient for the ongoing and future success or our islands.

“Corporate giving is an essential part of most successful community events that take place in Cayman today. These are challenging times for many businesses and the level of giving and support will become increasingly limited. Charities and other organisations and groups will need to evaluate how they seek assistance and, if granted, become accountable for how they spend the money that is given.”