Director of Communication & CSR, Fidelity Investments Ireland
Attitudes to corporate social responsibility have changed. Employees want to get involved in it, and corporations also see it as a way to do good while building their company’s reputation.
In the past, some companies might have viewed corporate social responsibility (CSR) as nothing more than a politically correct tick box exercise — something they did in order to keep up appearances.
But, thankfully, those days are long gone insists Dublin-based Penny Bryant, Director of Communication & CSR at Fidelity Investments Ireland. “Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched CSR earn its seat at the corporate table,” she says. “Companies now see it as a crucial way to reflect their ethos and build their external reputations. There’s an understanding that CSR has to become part of their narrative.”
Which means organisations are increasingly thinking about who they are and what they stand for. A typical CSR portfolio might include a focus on philanthropic causes, the measures a company enforces to reduce its environmental footprint, and the steps it takes to ensure that all its stakeholders are treated fairly.
Using CSR as a bridge to the community
Every business will have its own CSR priorities. For Fidelity Investments Ireland, corporate social responsibility is a way to provide a bridge between the organisation and the local community. Part of this includes company volunteers going into schools to present students with a range of STEM workshops. “Our big picture is about employability and helping build a talent pipeline for girls in STEM,” says Bryant. “That’s not just important for the community but for us as an organisation.”
Staff don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the CSR table. Many are keen to help make a difference. “When we asked our people what was important to them, they told us it was skill-transfer in the local community,” says Bryant. “They want to make an impact in wider society.”
Attracting and retaining the best talent
Also, job-seekers are looking to join organisations with strong corporate social responsibility strategies. “CSR is a positive way to attract and keep good talent,” says Bryant. “The feedback we’re getting is that we need to continue to be as upfront about it as our other company information, such as culture and benefits.”
Ultimately, while CSR is good for business, it can be good for the soul, too. “I’ve found myself getting quite emotional when seeing the impact CSR can make,” says Bryant. “For example, we sponsored someone who wouldn’t normally be able to get a third level education. When they say ‘You’ve changed my life’ you can’t help but feel good about yourself and the company you work for.”