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From Rail Card to Organic Coffee: CSR in practice

From Rail Card to Organic Coffee: CSR in practice

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Mention ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and the first thing anyone thinks about is the environment: saving energy, fuel efficiency and walking or taking public transport to work. Yet CSR is much broader, as two experts in the areas of IT and Facilities explain.

Mention ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and the first thing anyone thinks about is the environment: saving energy, fuel efficiency and walking or taking public transport to work. Yet CSR is much broader, as two experts in the areas of IT and Facilities explain.

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Published by: TOPdesk on Feb 12, 2013
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CSR in practice

Mention ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and the first thing anyone thinks about is the environment: saving energy, fuel efficiency and walking or taking public transport to work. Yet CSR is much broader, as two experts in the areas of IT and Facilities explain.

An increasing number of organizations are hearing that, when compiling a tender, they need to meet a number of requirements with regard to Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR. Yet it isn’t always clear what exactly is being asked of you or how you can best respond. The CEO at our company cycles to and from work each day – is that CSR? And organic food is served in the canteen. We also re-use the

heat from our server room to heat other rooms. Is that considered CSR?

People, Planet, Profit
Many people have no real idea as to what CSR actually entails. “You see that everyone is looking for answers,” tells Mechtild Kuijpers, Sustainability Manager at Centric. “People are trying to find out what CSR exactly involves and how your company can give it its

own personal stamp.” Yet this lack of clarity is not surprising. The CSR concept is so broad that you can interpret it in all sorts of ways. The guidelines drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) mention no less than nine themes on which companies can focus. These range from human rights and the environment, to technology and consumer interests. In summary



CSR involves: conducting business with thought for Profit (economy), Planet (environment) and People (individuals within and outside of the organization).

from other organizations. This is possible with CSR, and this has since caught on at many companies.” “In addition, the growing awareness of social involvement is most likely a response to individualization and the shortterm thinking of society. This is generally seen as the cause of the crisis of two years ago, and individuals were in need of a different outlook on life – one that was more geared to sustainability in the long term,” tells Mechtild. “The crisis has got people thinking. Organizations were forced to review their operational management and to go looking for new, sustainable solutions.”

Performance ladders and USPs
Where does this attention for CSR stem from? In the Netherlands, one reason for the increasing awareness of CSR is due to an initiative of ProRail, the government task organization that looks after the maintenance of the railway network infrastructure. Several years ago, ProRail established the CO2 performance ladder to stimulate suppliers to operate more sustainably, both in the area of production and operational management. Those organizations that can demonstrably lower their CO2 emissions have a better chance of getting the contract or tender. “Following this, a chain reaction of sorts began to occur,” tells Mechtild. “Companies with connections to ProRail began operating an identical system for their own suppliers. And their suppliers then did so for their suppliers. Consequently, the demand for CSR has been increasing considerably since autumn 2009. The economic crisis also brought CSR to the attention of many. Maybrit Admiraal, who has visited many different organizations in her work at Humanagement, has also noticed this. “In this difficult market, organizations are looking for new Unique Selling Propositions, or USPs. They’re looking for that certain something with which they can distinguish themselves

Maybrit also thinks that a practical approach is the only one that works. “It is important not to view CSR as too black and white. There is no use in suddenly forcing all employees to begin driving in an energy-efficient company car. Instead, it is better that you make available company cars and public transport passes. Employees can then make their own choices, but you do encourage them to leave the car behind at home every so often.”

Get them thinking
It’s not about large-scale projects directed by the management; indeed, CSR initiatives generally come from the employees themselves. “The responsibility to offer an interpretation to CSR should not lie with one department,” finds Maybrit. “It should be a component of integral management – you have to get employees thinking in terms of CSR. However, the management should certainly set an example. It’s difficult to encourage your employees to cycle to work every day when you’re flying between cities every week.”

Practical approach
Certainly remarkable is the fact that most company initiatives are modest by nature. For example, establishing a bike plan for employees, using organic coffee in the coffee machine or asking the boss to sponsor a project you’re doing for charity.

Mechtild Kuijpers, Centric

This small-scale approach is good, finds the OECD. In the OECD code of conduct, companies are advised not to bite off more than they can chew and are better off beginning with one or two guidelines than trying to change the policy on all points.

But how do you get employees to start thinking about CSR? Mechtild does this by organizing a ‘roadshow’ at her company. “I visit various departments in order to create internal realization of CSR because I want to ensure that there is more discussion on the


subject. I give them the required information and encourage them to think critically. I don’t want them to just make do with what they’ve got, but instead look at what can be done better in their daily work.”

you’re blowing your own trumpet, which actually has the opposite effect.” Moreover, it is no longer so easy to score points with CSR, Maybrit remarks. “We’re now at the point where CSR is becoming a requisite. You don’t necessarily score points if you have a certain attribute, but you are looked upon negatively if your don’t do something.”

Humanagement & CSR
“CSR is of course nothing new,” claims Maybrit. “Ten years ago, it was already the annual theme of FMN (the Facilities Management union in the Netherlands), in which we are active, and it still has our attention.” “CSR is interesting for us for two reasons. The first is commercial – we move in the facilities market, and therefore must be up to date on all the latest trends. CSR is one of those. We try to acquire this knowledge and share it by organizing knowledge sessions, strategy days, articles and guest lectures. The second reason is that the values of CSR are in keeping with the objectives of our organization. We are very focused on sustainability and the long term. In view of this, we look at how the ambitions of our employees can fit with our policy. Personal and professional ambitions can be combined very well - from using cartridges intelligently to taking the train more often. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure that these measures are attainable.

Sharing knowledge
There is still a lot to learn about Corporate Social Responsibility, which is why conferences and knowledge days are organized where companies can share their

Maybrit Admiraal, Humanagement

experiences and exchange ideas. Sharing knowledge is essential, as Mechtild explains. “We often give presentations at schools and universities. As a knowledge organization, you shouldn’t be afraid to make your knowledge of CSR public because you always get something back in return, such as good ideas or enthusiastic new colleagues.” Knowledge sharing between organizations is also encouraged, but you should be more careful with what you reveal as an organization. “The difficult thing with the communication surrounding CSR is that you are split,” tells Mechtild. “On the one hand, it’s good marketing – if you do business sustainably, then it’s good for your image to reveal that. But, if you do that too often, it might come across as though

Ferraris in the car park
CSR should then become the norm, as there is still a lot of profit to be made. “In the future, the CSR theme will have to be seen in all different areas,” Maybrit explains. Currently, we are focusing on strengthening requirements for suppliers. But why shouldn’t we also set these same requirements for clients? And, of course, first and foremost also for our own organization. Still, this approach is still somewhat limited. A supplier once told me ‘In a tender, we received a long list of requirements about what we had to do in terms of CSR. And we arrived at the company only to find SUVs and Ferrari parked outside the door.’ That is, of course, remarkable. Every company should be made to look critically at its own activities.”

Centric & CSR
‘Sharing Innovation’ is the theme at Centric with regard to CSR: innovating and exchanging ideas. An important component of this is that success ‘is no longer equal to growth, return and status, but is instead related to stability, sustainability and social added value.’ This year, Centric became partner of MVO Nederland and signed the agreement between the Dutch government, companies and institutions to use energy more efficiently. “The aim of this


agreement is to reduce energy use each year by two percent,” explains Mechtild. That will be easy in the first year, but each year, it will become an increasingly greater challenge. Participating is a good way to share knowledge about CSR; we can also learn about initiatives from other companies” As an IT service provider, you also help other companies to operate more sustainably, tells Mechtild. “Software is of course pre-eminently a means of saving energy. We develop and implement software that helps companies to plan their transport activities more efficiently, resulting in fewer vehicle mileage and empty rides. Wholesalers can also send their invoices electronically using ‘e-invoicing’ and therefore use considerably less paper. And with network standards like Wake-on Lan, retailers can switch off their cash register hardware – which has already become more energy efficient in the past two years – or turn off sleeping mode.

TOPdesk & CSR
At TOPdesk, the initiatives come primarily from the employees themselves. No strict policy has been established for CSR, and employees have the freedom to put forward their ideas. Over the past few years, this has led to various projects. Software has been donated and support given to foundations in Africa. Participants in running and cycling competitions have also been sponsored to raise money for charities. In addition, a team of TOPdesk employees does voluntary work each year at a foundation for learning disabilities. One initiative that TOPdesk sponsored this year was the participation in ‘Alpe d’Huez’, an event during which participants cycle de Alpe d’Huez in France six times in one day to raise money in the fight against Cancer. One of the members of the TOPdesk team is consultant Jordi Recasens. “Two colleagues and I really wanted to participate in the event from our own personal motivation. We came up with a plan of how

to best prepare ourselves for the event and raise as much money as possible. We went to management and told them of our plan, and they ended up sponsoring us.”

“You don’t have to have an established policy in order for CSR to work,” remarks Jordi, “because everything is open for discussion within TOPdesk, there is room for such initiatives. Every proposal is taken seriously. And if you then put a lot of energy into a project like this, it’s a good feeling to know that the organization is behind you.”

Maybrit Admiraal, Humanagement

Mechtild Kuijpers, Centric


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