Roberto F. Adame Garduño, from the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (CEMEFI), says that corporate social responsibility is going beyond what the law requires.
But how far should you go? To answer that question, we talked to Claudia González Huerta, director and founding partner of Forbairt, S.C., a consulting firm with 17 years’ experience in the area of Social Responsibility and the distinction provided by CEMEFI in particular.
Most of the companies that participate in the distinction, “don’t believe that they’re socially responsible at all, but after carrying out the process and evaluating themselves, they realize that they’ve been socially responsible for years,” says González.
So, the changes they have to make aren’t drastic. According to the specialist, the self-assessment tool required for the distinction tells large, small, and medium-sized companies what they should reinforce or incorporate.
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What is corporate social responsibility?
“If you responded to the self-assessment tool that you don’t have a lactation room, that tells you what you should do. Perhaps you don’t know how many pregnant women there are each year in your company. Get statistics and create your room in one or two years,” explains Claudia González.
There is also paternity leave. The law gives five days, “but, as a socially responsible company, what else can you give? Some companies give a bonus, others give seven days’ leave, and some others –which aren’t able to give a week– allow fathers to manage their five days as they choose,” explains González.
Work-life balance is part of being responsible. This means some companies offer their employees the possibility of having staggered schedules, i.e. some arrive at 9 in the morning and others at 10 in the morning, which allows them to drop their children off at school without any stress.
“What I’ve often seen is that when companies give their employees flexibility and time off, they receive better performance, because workers are grateful to their companies,” adds the expert.
In addition to flexibility, work-life balance is about working towards an objective, rather than a schedule.
Donations and philanthropy
“When companies begin the process of obtaining their Socially Responsible Company certification, they realize that philanthropy is a very small part of it,” says Claudia González, who recommends the following:
Define which causes you support according to your line of work (corporate purpose)
“You can’t support everyone who asks you for a donation or donate until you run out of that budget without an objective. You must be clear.”
How are you going to support that cause? Financially, through volunteering, or with your product?
“If you’re a pharmaceutical company, you’d be better off supporting civil organizations by offering your products to them. If you support education and your staff is trained, promote volunteering,” she adds.
Due to the pandemic, Claudia has seen a worrying crisis in civil organizations. “They’ve stopped receiving money, but the companies that support specific causes continue to donate. So, choose your corporate purpose wisely.”
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What are the first steps for Socially Responsible Companies?
“It’s different for small and large companies. In most cases, large companies already have regulations, so their policies are well-written. You just have to add to them without discriminating against or distinguishing between members of your staff,” explains Claudia González.
With SMEs, it’s a different matter. They’re doing a lot, but in most cases, there aren’t any regulations. So, these small companies must start by creating their policies.
The expert mentions the following points that should be strengthened in all cases:
Create a social responsibility committee: She notes that people from top management should be involved as members of the committee so that it’s really put into practice.
Strengthen both internal and external communication: It’s useless having good regulations if no one knows about them. “If you have a good vacation policy, salary, or English classes, but your employees don’t know, it’s pointless. You have to improve your communication.”
Make your code of ethics and conduct known: The expert explains that SMEs, in most cases, must create one, and large companies must remind their employees about it all the time, not just when they join.
Socially Responsible Companies (SRCs) are one step ahead
“SRCs weren’t taken by surprise by working from home or teleworking. It’s a trend that we already had in our sights, and the vast majority had already put it into practice,” says González.
For example, some companies included it in their benefits, along with grocery coupons, so people might have been working from home two days a week. Others already had pilot projects where entire areas were teleworking.
“The only challenge was having 100% of their employees teleworking. So, they had to provide them with the tools to carry it out and also take care of information security.”
SRCs are now looking at health and safety, remote leadership, medical consultations via video calls, and the inclusion of Covid-19 in major medical expenses insurance.
“The distinction helps you to visualize the risks that your company might run. It gives you a global overview, and then you as a company see what applies to you and how you can carry it out,” concludes Claudia González.
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