By Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Business in Hospitality (www.epinsights.co.uk)
It is often highlighted that having ‘purpose’ is important in business and in the workplace. Equally, it is becoming more commonplace for businesses to take a step back from their commercial agenda and to take more meaningful steps towards giving something back to society and the world we live in. But is it really enough for a business to simply talk the talk when it comes to supporting charitable and social initiatives? In many cases far greater physical action needs to be put behind the good intentions but greater change is also needed in the way we think. There is no longer any excuse to talk the words and not act. Investors, talent and potential clients are all watching whether you are as good as your words.
More people believe it is important for business to work in support of social initiatives but also to stand alongside the values that actually mean something to them. In fact, it’s becoming a deal breaker for young talent who are looking to work for the most ethical and CSR-led businesses today. As with most things in life, if businesses stand up for what they believe in, if there is genuine passion behind the cause, there is a greater chance to succeed, stand tall and really make a difference. Of course, there are many great businesses out there doing great things for social good, yet sadly this is still often met with scepticism and sometimes negativity as people look for reasons to distrust while questioning motives and genuine authenticity.
People wonder, why do you do as much as you do for the outside world? Why are you investing so much time in championing initiatives that are outside of your commercial business agenda? Fair comment, some might say, but is the truth that businesses, just like people, are simply starting to believe in better and in more? It would be nice to think so. As successful business owners, we should want to stand alongside causes that are important to us and those that we can genuinely help to make the difference in.
Connecting on a personal level
If one looks closely enough, it is easy to spot opportunities to share knowledge and support. Life is really all about ideas and of course helping young, emerging talent – the leaders of the future. Young people need exposure to different environments to gain new life experiences and to help prepare them for the future. Championing initiatives that have purpose in the real world and play a meaningful role in daily life will also help young talent to connect with their employer on a deeper more personal level.
Whether that means championing initiatives that influence health and wellbeing, or those that raise awareness of mental illness, seek to combat loneliness, help to nurture the young or even highlight the need for greater change around sustainability and diversity, there is much we can do and there is much to be done.
Standing tall alongside worthwhile initiatives also plays a key role in building stronger personal relationships both in terms of leadership and talent. Often, giving something back is about identifying with that need and doing what you can to give the right support. In fact, leaders are struggling today as much as emerging talent is so anything that goes some way to strengthening relationships, can only be a good thing.
Standing side by side
Perhaps it is time we looked at CSR in a different way? Not as a tick box exercise, not as something we have to participate in because everyone else is doing it, but because it is something we believe in and are passionate about. If we begin to recognise that championing great initiatives might not only improve the environment we live in, but also how we connect, engage and share knowledge as human beings, we soon start to see the real value that comes from the experience of standing side by side on the things that matter.
When it comes to supporting causes, sometimes it is easy to close doors to ideas that sit outside of your usual network or comfort zone, but diversity is the key. For example, right now EP is championing a number of initiatives from a charity that wants to bring young talent from diverse markets together to compete in the culinary world, to the first community football club to pay women the same as men and a campaign that places food at the heart of culture and daily life to help fuel productivity and influence health and wellbeing. The point is, there is so much we can get involved in, the list is endless, the only barrier to change is our own mind set.