Please Sir, may I have some more?

 

oliver-twist

More? MORE?? Sometimes we feel like Oliver Twist, asking for that extra bit of funding to get our CSR programs breathing again.

Pro Bono Australia just recently published a story that looks at how CSR can work and grow on a small budget, and with limited non-financial resources. The story follows an interview with Melissa le Mesurier, the head of CSR for Superpartners, which is Australia’s largest super fund. Superpartners has over $140 billion in funds under administration, with 1.2 million employees servicing 6.3 million members.

An organisation that size should surely have the ability to easily build a CSR program – however being a membership institution that produces only returns to its funds and members, it doesn’t have a readily consumable product, thus earnings, and profits from earnings that could be used in other organisations aren’t available. This differs drastically from your multinational mining, manufacturing and FMCG goods producers that offerer a visible product to the market and can engage their consumers in a very direct way.

In her interview, le Mesurier talks about the difficulties of creating a CSR program from a fledgling idea, but notes that it can be done without the pomp and ceremony of other large corporates who often focus more on a positive image than actually getting things done.

As with many smaller CSR departments, business integration is key and this means other professionals sometimes must wear the CSR hat – quite often those in the communications, marketing and human resources functions. Superpartners is a great example of this as their comms team doubles as a CSR function, which enables them to tell the social responsibility story effectively, and integrate that story with other communications initiatives and channels throughout the organisation.

One point that le Mesurier makes well is that CSR must be adapted as a broad strategy, rather than a series of initiatives and projects that are more connected to specific operational objectives. She explains “We’ve gone from having a program with twelve different monthly activities to narrowing that to having four key pillars – volunteering, community, health and financial literacy”. This is exemplary of an integrated focus. By aligning the CSR program with the company strategy in a broad manner, it is easier to increase employee engagement, and use existing resources to ‘piggyback’ CSR projects into the organisation’s daily operation.

The one point of difference for this story is that Superpartners doesn’t feel the need to tick every box across the sustainability (G4) reporting guidelines. Given limited resources le Mesurier notes that reporting can be more effective when they focus on specifics rather than the whole G4 system. “The potential is there to go deeper and focus in on more specific areas where you are making your investment or activity focus”. This can work if the specifics are directly linked to core business and the organisation’s strategic vision as a whole.

The Pro Bono Australia article is a great piece to read if you are looking at your own smaller organisation and wondering how to structure your sustainability/CSR approach. The key with limited resources is community engagement and functional integration – le Mesurier’s story is one that could definitely translate to other industries and sectors across the Australian business landscape.

As you can read in the article here, successful CSR is about telling a story and compelling people to understand that story. And although a choir sounds great, sometimes the best storyteller tells his tale with a single voice, and that can make all the difference.