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2020 / 2021 Edition

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More Than Philanthropy

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Recycling & Waste

As it is the festive time of year when attention turns to goodwill, MQR is taking a look at corporate social responsibility (CSR). But if you are thinking it is all about philanthropy and giving then think again. We start with CSR consultancy Article 13’s Jane Fiona Cumming setting the scene for firms to open their thinking to the “big picture”.

In businesses of all kinds, government bodies at all levels and academic institutions of every type, in Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and specialist consultancies, you can hear the terms corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability and sustainable development being used with increasing frequency. But what does it mean in hard business terms?

The concept of CSR has been around for a number of years and in this time has been defined in a number of different ways. But all the definitions have one thing in common – the idea that organisations have an obligation to consider the interests of everyone who is affected by their activities. In short it is about businesses responding to the challenge of sustainable development, or the environmental, social, ethical and economic agendas.

Increasing numbers of people are ‘talking the talk’, but does it really matter and is it relevant to the quarrying-related industries? Well, yes it is. Take Aggregate Industries as an example. It wears its CSR credentials on its sleeve because it receives tangible benefits. It can also see which way the wind is blowing as a supplier of construction materials and services.

On 30 July 2007 Stephen Timms, Minister for Construction at the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) announced the launch of a draft Strategy for Sustainable Construction consultation. The proposed joint strategy aims to help the industry deliver more sustainable construction methods and products. And its key areas include:

  • Reducing the carbon footprint of activities within the construction sector
  • Production of zero net waste at construction site level
  • Developing voluntary agreements and initiatives between the construction industry and its clients with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint and use of resources within the built environment
  • Creating a safer industry by improving skills, boosting the numbers of workers taking part in training programmes, and retaining more skilled workers.

Link this recently completed consultation with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes and the enforcement of Site Waste Management Plans from next April and the focus of government and regulators on the business and industry sectors involved in any aspect of the built environment is crystal clear: considerable pressure down the supply chain to meet the sustainability demands of CSR.

The construction industry as a whole consumes over 420million tonnes of materials a year and produces 92million tonnes of construction and demolition waste – around 50% of which is recycled.

One of the aims implicit in the CSR response to sustainability is to improve the resource efficiency and overall effectiveness of businesses. Each year the UK construction industry uses almost 280million tonnes of aggregates as raw construction material. A quarter of this, which equates to 70million tonnes of this total demand, is produced from recycled and secondary resources.

In addition, the built environment is responsible for 47% of carbon emissions, contributing significantly to climate change. So improving its efficiency is essential if the Government’s target of a 60% reduction in the 1990 level of emissions by 2050 is to be achieved.

This increases the focus on greater use of recycled and secondary materials as a feedstock to manufactured or processed products used in construction.

Materials suppliers and manufacturers are key in delivering this. Specification of products with high recycled content might, in some instances, be at odds with producing the best overall environmental option. However, preliminary work in progress by BRE shows that higher recycled content generally correlates with lower overall environmental impact across various product categories.

The trends in regulatory frameworks is a move towards recycled resources and lowering waste and energy levels. It all comes under the CSR umbrella but also make business sense. However, to consider such a focus completes any CSR response would be to miss out on opportunities to ensure your organisation can become preferred supplier in a complex supply chain.

Companies engaging with, and showing respect to, their employees – as well as building trust with them – are increasingly finding this to be the secret of business success.

Cumming: “One of the aims implicit in the CSR response to sustainability is to improve the resource efficiency and overall effectiveness of businesses. Each year the UK construction industry uses almost 280million tonnes of aggregates as raw construction."

BERR have a programme called Respect for People (RfP) which it claims is in line with the broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda encouraging businesses to consider the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their activities.

Most of the major quarry firms in the UK have signed up to RfP through the 2012 Construction Commitments document targeted at changing the way the construction industry and its stakeholders operate. It is another initiative sending CSR pressure down the line.

Feedback from those taking part in the scheme has been postive in terms of providing business benefits. Improved staff satisfaction and morale leading to improved customer satisfaction being one of them.

It contains the employee-related elements worth reviewing in any CSR strategy. These include equality and diversity, health and safety, training plans, policies and programmes for any work in occupied premises, worker satisfaction, and working environment.

This focus on employees not only helps staff retention, so cutting down on costs, as well as shared understanding of company values and employee brand building. It can also ‘spill over’ in terms of reputation into the communities local to sites.

And as the RfP document shows, customers are increasingly recognising the value of CSR related initiatives. Those companies showing a broad CSR policy and programme fully integrated with their business and the whole life-cycle of their product demonstrate a commitment to quality and are more likely to become preferred partners or suppliers of choice.

It must be said, of course, that a number of organisations, particularly larger ones, have made substantial progress in developing and implementing the kind of all-encompassing CSR policies and programmes in response to sustainable development responsibilities that we have been talking about.

For other organisations that have yet to take these steps, there is plenty of expert advice available. The key point is to recognise that sustainable development and CSR is key today to a company’s growth. Never forget that CSR is not a part of the big picture. It is the big picture.

Cumming:0208 840 4450

CSR – methods of communication

An effective communications strategy is critical to the success of any CSR programme, and there are two main lines for this to follow:

Internal
Developing strong communication channels with your employees is a well-established element of HR best practice and is equally important for CSR. These channels can include the intranet, the reception, employee restaurants or notice boards, pay slips, employee magazines. Keeping people involved in the CSR agenda makes it much more likely that it will be effective and that your organisation will be in a position to capitalise on the opportunities it creates.

External
Projecting your CSR message externally can significantly enhance your image in the eyes of several key audiences – customers, investors and local communities. This can include ensuring the CSR messages are briefed to all communication agencies to include in some way in customer advertising and direct mail, a few slides in any investor presentation and use of local magazines, newspapers but most importantly having employee presence at key local community events. In all three areas, expectations are rising and the opportunities for organisations to seize advantage by meeting those expectations are growing.

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