What is social responsibility?

Following a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I set up my own business in 2008 as a coach and a consultant, as a result of becoming of mother to two gorgeous girls.

“I am passionate about diversity; about the transformation women undergo when they become Mums; and leadership. I believe we can all choose to be leaders in our own lives and communities. How we live depends so much on our own mindset and sense of wholeness”.

Kate Griffiths is co-founder of Minervas Mind. Minerva’s Mind helps women especially Mums discover what they are really interested in and to see how, by making more conscious decisions, they can use that new found knowledge to get more from their lives.

We are delighted to welcome Kate as our regular columnist reflecting the views of mums and commenting on work and life from a mums point of view.
So what is social responsibility?

According to Wikipedia it is an ideological theory that an entity whether it is a government, corporation, organisation or individual has a responsibility to society at large. Written in those terms it sounds as if it has promise so why when I think of social responsibility do I feel uninspired. The answer lies in the lack of innovation in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes run by many companies. For CSR to take off there needs to be more creativity and commitment to CSR. This article explores different examples of social responsibility.

Initially when I was considering what to write for this article, I thought about the models of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that I know about. The first to come to mind was what we practised at PricewaterhouseCoopers. There were a number of local initiatives that the company supported such as reading in schools, and in most cases such as this example, PwC relied on members of staff taking up voluntary activities and fitting them in around their work. CSR was run by a small team of about two people and was certainly not seen as a mainstream business activity on any level.

Another model of CSR which I have much more time for is that which Anita Roddick employed when she ran the Body Shop. It was integral to the Body Shop’s way of doing business in that she identified local communities who could produce specific ingredients for products which were indigenous to their area. This arose from a belief in ‘Trade not Aid‘ and there was even a soap factory in Easterhouse, a depressed suburb of Glasgow, whose payroll included 100 residents.

The Body Shop really was a model of triple line accounting in action because environmental and social issues were incorporated into the way they did business. In this way Anita Roddick was a true pioneer and one of the great entrepreneurs of the 20th Century. She has always been the one female role model that I cite when asked.

So what can we learn from this second example of social responsibility? It shows us that to have a lasting impact on one or more communities, it is important to make more than a token gesture in the direction of social responsibility. I believe that the Body Shop was such a success because people liked working for an organisation that was clear about its values and cared about making a difference. When we do things for others then we receive tenfold what we gave. It is inspiring to serve others and it is wonderful to feel appreciated and we do not know where are actions will lead.

Recently I have got to know a therapist who cures people of asthma and other illnesses with both a physical and psychological manifestation. This is because she herself was not fully well until the age of 35 and since then she has been on a mission to improve other people’s health so that they do not suffer as she did for years. Another acquaintance of mine also knows this therapist, and recently she was diagnosed with cancer. The therapist has been treating the woman with cancer and making her feel well enough to continue with her chemo treatments. The patient has also had the energy to attend the odd event and whenever I see her at a networking event, she cannot stop singing the praises of this therapist. She is so grateful for all that the therapist has done for her. Those of you who work for yourselves know how valuable spontaneous referrals are. It is often the lifeblood of one’s business.

Recently Mary Queen of Charity Shops was back on TV. Here is a bold, quite brash woman who has global clients and yet she spent a year working with charity shops in the UK to revamp their image. She had a vision that charity shops could become a place to shop for fashion items at an affordable price in the recession. She focused on one particular shop in Orpington, Kent and took its weekly turnover from £900 to an average of £2,5k. This came about by teaching the volunteers how to sell, changing the layout of the shop with the help of Conran designs and encouraging well-dressed staff in local companies to participate in D-Day (donation day). That was an encouraging start and yet there was more. Mary introduced V-Day (volunteering day) where anyone but particularly younger people could volunteer in participating shops around London for a few hours. Those who participated said that they loved the informality of it which does not come from making a regular commitment. Many managers liked it because as they said it helped to have an extra pair of hands as there is always something to do.

To summarise, it is ideas like these either on an individual or company wide level that succeed in terms of social responsibility. This is because those who have initiated them have had the power of conviction and a passion for what they are doing. What this article has also illustrated is that social responsibility can be on a small scale and still have a major impact. We all have the capacity to get involved and the benefit is that we will feel good about ourselves and may even allow our light to shine more and in so doing permit the light of others to shine. All of this means that the world will be an even better place to live with people having more meaning in their lives and it is just the kind of thing that I do when I work with people as a coach.

So if you feel inspired having read this article, what can you do going forward to make a difference?

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