BD tips from the inside – a deep dive into Corporate Social Responsibility

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Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities are not only valuable for buidling internal cultural and purpose, but are also important for new business development and commercial outcomes. BD tips from the inside by guest author, Angela Kwan.

Welcome to our second article in the “BD tips from the inside” series which looks at Corporate Social Responsibility through the lens of a former lawyer turned tech entrepreneur.

This month Elizabeth Petersen speaks to Angela Kwan, Co-Founder of Catalyser. Catalyser is a female-led tech company backed by Telstra and EY. Catalyser was founded to transform employee giving through greater engagement. Its vision is to see all employees empowered with the technology they need to change the world from their workplace.

Introducing Angela Kwan and Catalyser 

I studied law and started legal practice always with the belief that laws are an enabler for making a positive difference and solving problems – be it for achieving commercial outcomes, or progressing social impact.  Even though my 10 years of law firm and in-house legal experience was related to finance and corporate law, I was really inspired by the culture of my workplaces which enabled staff to understand the privilege of being part of the legal profession and the importance of ‘giving back’ to the broader community. Often this meant opportunities to do pro bono work, volunteering and mentoring programs and even fundraising drives for social causes.  

I saw passionate engagement of staff in these Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and strong leadership support of projects but what was missing was there were no dedicated tools to manage these programs, which often involve considerable time planning and administration. For example, to coordinate hundreds of staff to do a volunteering day actually takes a lot of organisation; launching a fundraising appeal to respond to a natural disaster requires effort to ensure donations go to the right recipient. Addressing this issue and finding a way to make CSR more scalable, engaging and impactful inspired me to found Catalyser. Our mission is to provide digital solutions to enable more organisations to “change the world from their workplace.” 

Q: Can you explain the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Business Development Goals?

The concept of CSR has been a part of business for decades, but a recent trend has been the understanding that business success is not defined by profit alone and staff, consumers and society expects greater levels of corporate citizenship. As CSR has become more strategic, frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UNSDGs) have also become more widely accepted as a blueprint for developing and measuring the success of CSR programs. The UNSDGs comprise 17 goals for global action and partnership to end poverty, and improve health, education, reduce inequality, guide economic growth, address climate change and ensure environmental sustainability.  

Many corporates select several of these goals, that usually align with the business purpose of the company, to be the focus for CSR programs. For example, law firms often may focus on goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities, goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions and goal 17 – Partnerships for the goals, as the core themes for choosing charity partners and investing in social impact.

Q: Businesses are often required to outline their approach to Corporate Social Responsiblity/ESG in tender responses.  What is your advice in relation to preparing for and answering these questions?

Increasingly, a supplier’s community and Corporate Social Responsibility commitments are taken into consideration for bid responses and even ongoing disclosure requirements. This means CSR activities are not only valuable for building internal culture and purpose but should be considered important for new business development and commercial outcomes. 

Ensure that you can adequately track, record and report on your Corporate Social Responsibility activities as when the time comes to include details in a tender response, you will be prepared and not scrambling for content at the eleventh hour.

Q: Can you outline how a business can obtain B Corporation Certification?

Another growing external standard for demonstrating a company’s commitment to sustainability and society is the “B Corporation” certification program. Starting in the US in 2006, certified B Corporations are “businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose”. There are now over 4,000 B Corporations in 77 countries, across 153 industries, and outside of the US, Australia has the highest number of B Corporations. 

Catalyser is proud to commit to B Corporation certification from the start and this requires long term investments and commitments to all aspects of business operations including hiring practices, supplier management, customer relations and community engagement.

Q: Any other issues that organisations should consider and start planning for?

Successful Corporate Social Responsibility programs should be strategic and engage all levels of an organisation. This means there needs to be leadership buy-in and recognition that CSR programs are a valued, long term investment that requires adequate resourcing and promotion. Even during the pandemic, it is encouraging to see that companies have not neglected the need to support social causes, and in times when employee wellbeing is more important than ever, engaging staff in CSR activities can help to build a positive, resilient and empathetic culture.

BD tips from the inside – Conclusion

At the heart of it, Corporate Social Responsibility programs are essentially an investment and they have to be assessed and implemented strategically to maximise the benefits such as brand profile and brand equity. If an organisation can do that. then the benefits are endless.

Finally, people want to do business with organisations that have a stellar reputation that can be measured beyond profitability and encompass its cultural, as well as professional and ethical behaviour.

About Angela Kwan and Catalyser

Angela is a former corporate and finance lawyer, turned tech entrepreneur and is based in Sydney.

The Catalyser platform has been designed to give global workplaces the power to connect their people to each other through purpose and to make a culture of community and giving a central part of the employee experience.

To learn more about Angela and Catalyser, visit www.catalyser.com

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