Successful CSR tool impacting PSR (project social responsibility)
Consultant on Business & Project Management
Associate Professor at IE Business School
Board Member at Fundación Hazloposible
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been developed for several decades providing significant returns. There has been a concerted effort to implement CSR as a strategic asset; as a result, many good practices have been identified, with such importance being achieved that Sustainability Indexes, such as the one in Dow Jones (DJSI), exist today.
Can we apply “sustainability” and Social Responsibility to a project or program in a similar way as we do with a corporation? Are there any CSR practices that can impact PSR (Project Social Responsibility)?
This document will present CSR fundamentals as a win-win strategy; the Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) services provided to corporations by Fundación Hazloposible as part of their CSR; considerations about EVPs and EVP return to the corporation; a case of successful CSR implementation in the DKV corporation, with special focus on employee impact, motivation, and team building; and a case of successful implementation in Accenture, a corporation selling projects. Both DKV Spain and Accenture Spain are currently running EVP powered by Fundación Hazloposible. This will establish the starting point to identify ways of applying CSR lessons learned to projects. Finally, a short biography of the author will present his background in CSR, business, and project management.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been developed for several decades. Project Social Responsibility (PSR), on the other hand, is an emerging approach that can incorporate and adapt CSR practices. The objective of this paper is not to provide a definitive list of ways of applying CSR to projects but, simply, to illustrate different examples of how it can be done and to provide a basis to further develop this emerging approach. In fact, the scenario will strongly depend on varying project aspects, including size, technology, or skill level required to project team members.
CSR Fundamentals: A Win-Win Approach
According to Wikipedia (Corporate Social Responsibility, 2014, ¶1): “Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business/Responsible Business) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. In some models, a firm’s implementation of CSR goes beyond compliance and engages in “actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law.” CSR is a process with the aim to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere who may also be considered stakeholders.”
CSR stands for Corporate Social Responsibility, which commonly includes not only “Social” but also, at the very least, Environmental sustainability aspects. “Environmental” is missing from the CSR acronym that has been used for many years. Today “Corporate Responsibility” (CR) is a more inclusive term and is substituting CSR.
In 1999, the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) established a reference for corporations reporting sustainability and it covers the financial, social, and environmental results/impacts of the corporation. GRI reporting is widely accepted today. Other factors that can be considered part of long-term sustainability are: ethics, reputation, diversity, supply chain, or innovation.
Does CSR mean simply allocating a portion of company revenue to social or environmental initiatives, thus negatively impacting company economical results, even going so far as to place the sustainability of the company itself at risk? Can it truly be considered sustainable if not aligned with the business strategy and returning value to the corporation? Obviously not!
If CSR is indeed to be considered responsible, it must, by definition, be sustainable. The company should therefore define it within strategic alignment, resulting in a win-win between the company and all external stakeholders. This includes stockholders!
Is it possible to achieve a win-win situation? Yes, it emphatically is, as many corporations are currently demonstrating.
This is extremely good news: Approaching business strategy from a CSR perspective is not only better for the stakeholders all around but also for the stockholders!
CSR Services by Fundación Hazlopsible: Employee Volunteer Platform
About Fundación Hazloposible
The name of the Foundation, “Haz-lo-posible,” consists of three words together and has a double meaning in Spanish: ‘Do what you can’ and ‘Make it happen.’ Its mission is to promote participation and interaction to support fulfillment of solidarity initiatives. It offers collaboration opportunities to citizens and corporations and serves more than 8,000 NGOs with advice, news, employee searching, software, and donations (See Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1 – Figures of Fundación Hazloposible according to the Foundation’s 2012–2013 Report
(Fundación Hazloposible, 2013).
Exhibit 2 – PricewaterhouseCoopers’ intranet web page for “Voluntariado Corporativo.”
The Employee Volunteering Service by Fundación Hazloposible
Fundación Hazloposible has been providing CSR services since the 20th century. Current customers include corporations such as: Banco Santander, Iberdrola, British Telecom, Inditex, DKV, Accenture, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Hazloposible’s customers’ Market Capitalization accounts for more than one half of the total Market Capitalization of the 35 companies included in IBEX35 (Madrid Stock Exchange index).
The CSR service is provided through an Employee Volunteering (EV) web platform, “Voluntariado Corporativo” service. Customers’ Employee Volunteering Programs are promoted and managed using this web platform, which is integrated as part of their intranets. Typical sections are: “Volunteering Guide,” “Volunteer opportunity search,” “Experiences,” and “News” and “Statistics.” Exhibits 2, 3, and 6 present the Employee Volunteering web pages of PWC Spain, DKV Spain, and Accenture Spain.
Employee Volunteering Programs (EVP)
EVP as Part of CSR
One of the many different programs that could be used to implement CSR is an EVP. We have focused on EVP because it can make sense within a project oriented organization. The Employee Volunteering service by Fundación Hazloposible, already presented, is an example of EVP. Other examples will be covered in this paper and they all have the following in common:
- Employees volunteer for social good in a corporate activity
- It is being done during work time, free time, or a certain mix
- The activity is commonly short (from hours to a day)
- It is done in a team with other employees
The question could now be: Is that a win-win approach? In fact, it is win-win-win-…-win: good ultimately for people in social need, good for the social organization(s) partnering, good for society,… good for the employee, and good for the company. How are the employee and the company getting value from an EVP?
Rather than giving my own response, I think it can be best illustrated by the following responses from studies and respected authors. I invite you to access the source documents, where you will find many more arguments, studies, and references other than the few reproduced here.
Volunteering Victoria document, Corporate Volunteering: The Business Case’ provides an extraordinary compilation or references for building the case for corporate volunteering. (Volunteering Victoria, 2014)
“Corporate volunteering is a win:win:win scenario. It’s good for the community, good for the employees and good for the company.”
“Can Corporate Responsibility really add value to business and society?” (Buckley, S., March 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers)
Sarah Buckley, Director of Corporate Responsibility at PwC, believes CR can really add value and explains that PwC invests in CR because it benefits the business. She claims that “our surveys show that 91% of [the sector and our charity partners] believe PwC is a socially responsible employer, and for 70% the firm’s focus on CR is a factor in their decision to continue to work for the firm. We calculate the CR impact on staff retention would be worth at least $5 million annually.”
“Lend a Hand: Why workplace volunteering is a win:win”
(Stanford, P., February 2014, The Telegraph, United Kingdom) (Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/lend-a-hand/10643659/Lend-a-hand-why-workplace-volunteering-is-a-win-win.html)
In this article, BT Chairman Sir Mike Rake explains why he gives his employees time off to volunteer. “We do it because we recognise, first of all, that people who volunteer can make a real difference to their community, whether they direct their energy to poor children or helping older people with ICT [information and communications technology]. Next we can see that it is really good for our people who do it. They build up their skills, develop personally and become better leaders. And finally, it helps us develop BT as a strong, engaged brand that contributes.”
He also says that if the company supports the volunteering efforts, it will reap many rewards. “My experience,” he reflects, “is that if, as an employer, you seed it, provide the opportunities, people end up doing far more. Forget three days; many of them are doing many more hours on their own time, in the evenings and at weekends. For the employer, it pays back very quickly on any cost-benefit analysis. You see improvements in productivity. Morale is better, and you find it easier to recruit and retain people because they feel proud to be part of that volunteering proposal.”
From Bea Boccalandro’s, “19 Compelling Business Reasons for Corporate Community Involvement” (Boccalandro, B., 2013): “Corporate Community Involvement (CCI), or company efforts to support societal causes, is on the rise.
A Corporate Responsibility (CR) Magazine and NYSE-Euronext survey of over 300 companies, for example, found that 72% of respondents have CCI or other corporate responsibility programs and that 77% say these programs will expand over the next three years. One reason for the popularity of CCI is that its business value is becoming increasingly evident.
Even noted Harvard Business School business strategist Michael Porter considers CCI an effective way to increase a company’s competitive advantage. Similarly, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship collaborated with McKinsey & Company on research that lays out the paths by which CCI adds value to business. More specifically, there is evidence that CCI makes a measurable difference on both internal and external business functions, as follows:
External stakeholder attitudes and behaviors: reputation, sales, investor actions and other external stakeholder reactions…. Employee attitudes and behaviours: recruitment, teamwork, morale, engagement, retention, skills and performance”
The first of the 19 reasons is:
“1. Harvard Business School research (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6865.html) found that companies with more corporate social responsibility practices significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance.”
From Sylvia Ann Hewlett in Harvard Business Review “Strengthen Your Workforce Through Volunteer Programs” (Hewlett, S.A., 2012):
“Time-crunched employees are increasingly looking to their jobs to provide opportunities for the good deeds that they don’t have the hours for outside of work, and companies are responding. But karmic satisfaction is only part of the payoff.
Volunteering offers participants the opportunity to strengthen their skills, broaden their networks, break out of a career rut, and find new meaning in their job. All these benefits redound to employers in the form of increased engagement and retention.
Data from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) shows that the vast majority of college graduates want to amplify their commitment to good causes through their employer. According to the Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey (PDF), Generation Ys who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are more likely to be very proud to work for their company, feel very loyal, and are very satisfied with the progression of their careers. In fact, for many recent college graduates, a robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandate makes a crucial difference in where they choose to work, with 77% of respondents in a recent study (PDF) indicating that “a company’s commitment to social issues is important when I decide where to work.”
Junior Achievement indicates in the very well supported study “The Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs” (Junior Achievement, 2009):
“There are ample quantitative and qualitative studies that show that being a good corporate citizen can also be good for a company’s bottom line. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between active community outreach programs and increased revenues and customer loyalty for businesses that engage in helping their communities. In this context, many businesses have developed extensive strategic philanthropy initiatives to insure that their giving aligns with their missions and core values.”
CSR in DKV, A Private Health Insurance Company
Corporate Social Action DKV Employees (2002)
DKV is the private health insurance brand of Munich Re, one of the biggest insurance and reinsurance groups in the world.
In 2002, the Corporate Social Action DKV Employees initiative was created and launched in DKV Spain. The initiative, part of the CSR vision, was built by a group of employees committed to the initial idea and supported by Julio Carazo, author of this paper.
This is how it was configured: Social initiatives were proposed by an employee or by the company. Social initiatives considered were partnering with well-established social organizations. After having been proposed and communicated, enough support was received from other employees offering their volunteer work or their private donations. Volunteer work could be done partially during working hours and the money donated by employees was doubled by the company.
Social Action DKV Employees was built aligned with corporate strategy and designed in a win-win approach (as previously explained CSR should be). The return to DKV included different aspects, such as:
- Promoting team building. Supporting a social initiative along with other employees is a powerful source of interpersonal relationships. Such relationships created links with colleagues from other departments or, more importantly, colleagues coming from other companies after the recent mergers of DKV in Spain.
- Promoting values of service and customer care. Employee sensitivity with other people’s needs is a key factor in a company that provides health services and interacts regularly with its customers.
Exhibit 3 – Employee Volunteer page at DKV Spain’s intranet.
DKV’s CSR has come a long way since 2002. Today Corporate Responsibility (CR) is well established, including, but not limited to:
- UN World Pact subscriber
- GRI Reporting every year (financial, social, and environmental results)
- Finalist in the 2013 United Nations World Pact Award
- Zero C02 and SGE21 certifications
- ‘Great-Place-To-Work’ ranks DKV Spain every year in the top 10 preferred companies (500 to 1,000 employees segment)
- REPTRAK evaluation by Reputation Institute (http://www.reputationinstitute.com/) scores DKV in an excellent average score of 78.3%. The Reptrak Pulse Spain 2013 (http://www.reputationinstitute.com/thought-leadership/reptrak-in-countries) includes the 100 companies with the highest public familiarity, none of them in the health insurance sector. DKV’s score of 78.3% corresponds with top 7 out of 100 in the ranking. Reptrak evaluates the reputational dimensions: Performance, Product/Services, Innovation, Workplace, Governance, Citizenship, and Leadership.
- Including Fundación Integralia, DKV group is the company with the largest number of handicapped employees in Spain
- And a long list of successful social and environmental initiatives
Employees view very positively the company’s investment in social actions. They also support massively and continuously social and environmental initiatives (volunteering and donations). ‘Great-Place-To-Work’ results simply measure the extraordinary motivation and employee pride.
Financial results have been positive, with group business growth of 3% even in the adverse situation of the crisis and, also, the fact that in Spain healthcare is universal and free. Supporting underpinning those successful results we can find Corporate Responsibility designed strategically, managed, and measured.
Sivia Agullo, Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Manager, states: “measuring CSR is itself an exercise of responsibility: (1) First, toward society in order to maximize the value provided to society and (2) second, with stockholders because CSR should also maximize the financial results.” In fact, DKV Spain is engaged in a project with McKinsey focused on measuring the return CSR produces to the company.”
CSR in Accenture, An Organization Selling Projects
Accenture’s Corporate Citizenship
Accenture’s Corporate Citizenship is a program for all countries. Its objective is to create long-term value for the communities we live and work in, strengthening our businesses, and enhancing our contribution to society. Its focus is placed on:
- Skills to Succeed (http://www.accenture.com/us-en/company/citizenship/Pages/skills-succeed.aspx): Advancing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in both mature and growth markets and, ultimately, increasing competitiveness for both business and the world as a whole.
- Environment: Fostering environmentally sustainable growth for our company and our stakeholders
Skills to Succeed helps address the global need for skills that open doors to employment and economic opportunities. It does this by drawing on two of Accenture’s unique capabilities: training talent and convening powerful partnerships to develop collaborative solutions. When Skills to Succeed was launched, employability and entrepreneurship were pressing issues. Accenture was struck, however, by how relevant and urgent they have become in nearly every country around the world.
Exhibit 4 – Accenture’s Skills to Succeed Commitment.
The measurable impact achieved through long-term relationships with strategic partners is central to Skills to Succeed. Working with nonprofits that bring on-the-ground expertise in both mature and growth markets allows focusing efforts in the communities where the biggest difference can be made. By investing in these partnerships, the initiatives deliver measurable employment and entrepreneurship outcomes at scale.
Accenture and Plan International have been partnering since 2011 to provide underprivileged young people, particularly rural migrants and girls, with skills that prepare them for jobs in industries such as information technology, customer relations, business processes, and electronic repair. In total, we have committed more than US$5.5 million to Plan International to support multi-year projects.
Since 2010, Save the Children and Accenture have teamed across numerous programs and geographies to create job skills training and placement opportunities for disadvantaged and at-risk young people. The partnership has been so successful that it has become a signature program for expansion within Save the Children’s global movement. In total, more than US$2.5 million have been committed to Save the Children.
Accenture has been serving as an advisor and partner to YBI (Youth Business International) since its inception. Today, YBI is a multi-faceted collaborative network whose members provide budding entrepreneurs with access to business mentoring, training, and capital. The partnership comprises both funding and the time and skills of Accenture’s people to guide YBI’s strategic development. In total, more than US$10 million in both cash and pro bono services have been awarded to YBI and its country members.
Accenture’s environmental footprint consists primarily of the carbon emissions that employees generate through air travel and use of electricity. When the initial carbon target was set in fiscal 2008, business operations emitted an average of 4.0 metric tons of CO2 per employee. Since then, per employee carbon emissions have been reduced by more than 36% against the fiscal 2007 baseline, to an average of 2.6 metric tons per employee. This reduction is equal to avoiding nearly 1.5 million metric tons of CO2. Notably, these results were achieved in the same period in which headcount was increased by more than 100,000 employees, or approximately 60%.
Accenture Spain Social Action
Focusing on the case of Accenture Spain Social Action makes sense in order to identify practices that could make sense in a project situation.
Accenture Spain social action (see Exhibit 5) provides value basically in three ways:
- Pro bono Consultancy services that are managed with the same standards of the service provided to customers;
- Employee Volunteering activities where Fundación Hazloposible’s “Voluntariado Corporativo” platform is used; and
- Donations with the company doubling any donation made by employees.
Exhibit 5 – Accenture Spain’s social action indicators FY13.
The local implementation of the global program “Skills to Success” is “Juntos por el Empleo de los más Vulnerables” (http://www.accenture.com/es-es/company/newsroom-spain/Pages/juntos-por-el-empleo-accenture.aspx), a cross-sector initiative that aims to create a step-change in labor market integration and entrepreneurship for the most vulnerable sectors of society in Spain. Thirty-two social organizations, 30 companies, and 14 public administrations are working together to diagnose the issues and deliver solutions.
Exhibit 6 – Accenture Spain’s intranet page for “Voluntariado Corporativo,” powered by Fundación Hazloposible.
Social Action within Accenture Spain delivers significant value to the society it serves. Partnering with social organizations ensures that this goal is achieved. The value provided to the society it serves is carefully measured and optimized. Understanding how it also contributes value to Accenture—configuring a win-win sustainable activity—could be more difficult than perceiving the value provided to the society. The following points can illustrate this:
- Corporate Citizenship at Accenture Spain contributes to reinforcing Accenture’s Core Values in which its conduct code is based: Client value creation, Respect for the individual, Best people, Integrity, One global network, and Stewardship.
- Performing a committed and nonprofit social action benefits the corporate reputation and prestige and its image within the market (awards, recognitions, news in press)
- Social action promoted by the company, increases employees’ engagement as well as their sense of pride in the company.
- Social action allows establishing collaborations with clients and improves relationships. Through group activities, common goals that impact our community can be achieved. This allows an approach among clients and Accenture employees.
Employee’s engagement is a key point that impacts:
- Increasing employees’ pride of membership.
- Facilitating networking among our employees and employees from other organizations: Volunteering activities are good examples of this.
- Participating in consultancy projects and volunteering activities gives advantages to professional growth, enables achievement of other kinds of knowledge and other differential factors from our traditional clients, and in this way complete the resume.
- Activities such as volunteering allow the improvement of the work environment within and outside of the membership groups of each one.
- It’s a part of the ‘emotional’ salary as the company provides ways to channel employees’ social concerns and help them by giving them the time to perform them (the volunteering web and volunteering program during work hours are good examples)
- Developing social activities allows achieving a three-dimensional balance: private, professional, and social.
- Sharing experiences with family helps to transmit positive values to offspring’s education.
- Supporting and responsibility with the environment: ecological volunteering activities encourage the employees to become more responsible with the environment.
According to internal surveys, the majority of Accenture people in Spain:
- Rank corporate citizenship among the top reasons they like working for the company
- Consider that corporate citizenship increases the sense of pride in the company
- Consider that corporate citizenship provides opportunities to make an impact in the community
Project Social Responsibility (PSR) Benefits
Can a Corporate Social Responsibility strategic approach and practices support project success? Can Social Responsibility cover both the needs of projects and the needs of the organizations promoting and executing them (apart from other stakeholders’ needs)?
An important part of the outcomes of CSR to the organization has to do with:
- Employees: engagement, teamwork, pride in belonging, etc.
- Reputation: this is important for employees also, but specifically facilitates relationships with external stakeholders
Do they apply to projects? Probably the most important difference between a corporation or a work team inside a corporation and a project team has to do with the duration of the team relationship. Considering that a project team has to be created, evolve during the phases of the project and then, finally extinguish—does it make sense to put a significant effort into building the team? Is it not more important for the team that will be performing for years in a corporation?
To respond to the previous questions, it is worth considering that:
- Most projects are not standalone but executed with significant participation of the same organization that has been, and will continue to be, involved in similar projects. Then the situation is very similar to that of any corporation.
- Project teams have to be performing consistently in a very short time after being created. That is why the employee-related benefits of CSR can be even more critical than in running an organization (i.e., teambuilding and employee motivation).
- The case of a big and long standalone project with an organization created from scratch or with employees from many different companies will have a team performing for a long time. In that sense, CSR affecting employees could play a role similar to that of any corporation. But the fact that the organization itself has to be created makes it more important to get employee-related CSR outcomes.
With these considerations in mind, the response to the previously stated questions could be: every project or program is different and should be considered differently but, in most cases, most of the general benefits of CSR make sense in a project organization. Even more: there are reasons to consider that certain benefits of EVP could be more critical in projects than they are in running corporations.
Exhibit 7 – Types of benefits of CSR in the dimension of employee attitudes and behaviors (very significant dimension for EVP).
Starting with Bea Boccalandro’s categories (Boccalandro, B., 2013) for “External stakeholder attitudes and behaviors” and “Employee attitudes and behaviors,” following you will find a compilation of the different benefits of CSR and comments on how they can apply to projects.
- External stakeholder attitudes and behaviors: reputation, sales, investor actions, and other external stakeholder reactions. Those are aspects that could be covered by a project risk plan. Reputation could be important in certain projects affecting communities.
- Employee attitudes and behaviors could be important in a wide variety of projects and, clearly, when considering medium and highly skilled workers. Exhibit 7 presents a list of benefits related to employees. Some of them could be more important for certain project types (in terms of size, duration, technology, team size, or skill level required to project team members, to mention a few). Classifying project categories with different key benefits to ensure is a field for further research. Another approach consists of reviewing the importance of the points in Exhibit 7 for a single project or program. The adequacy of EVP and other CSR initiatives could be evaluated if any of them is considered significant for the project.
About the Author
Julio Carazo San José, PMP, MBA, MSc in Telecom Engineering and in Project Management, provides services as a consultant on business creation and management and project management. He is an IE Business School Associate Professor, entrepreneur, PMI chapter past-president, Fundación Hazloposible board member, international speaker, and works for organizations in several countries and sectors.
Mr. Carazo’s has the following CSR and social related experience: As a social entrepreneur he promoted Fundación Solired (today Fundación Hazloposible), working for social good and with significant economic support from corporations that received CSR support. He has also acted as a CSR consultant, providing services to Deloitte, DKV Insurance, Telefónica de España, Credit Suisse, Taylor Woodrow, Adeslas, and another companies. He received the 2012 Social Entrepreneurship Award from Mutua Madrileña – IE Business School.
Boccalandro, B. (2013). 19 Compelling Business Reasons for Corporate Community Involvement. Retrieved from http://www.business4better.org/blog/?p=737
Corporate Social Responsibility. (2014). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_social_responsibility
Fundación Hazloposible. (2013). Informe anual junio 2012- julio 2013. Retrieved from http://hazloposible.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/Informe-anual-2012-13_baja.pdf
Hewlett, S.A. (2012). Strengthen Your Workforce Through Volunteer Programs. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/03/strengthen-your-workforce-thro/
Junior Achievement. (2009). The Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs. Retrieved from https://www.juniorachievement.org/documents/20009/36541/Benefits-of-Employee-Volunteer-Programs.pdf
Volunteering Victoria. (2014). Corporate Volunteering: The Business Case. Retrieved from http://volunteeringvictoria.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The-Business-Case-for-Corporate-Volunteering2.pdf
© 2014, Julio Carazo San José
Originally published as a part of the 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Phoenix, Arizona, USA