CSR : SMALL STEPS FOR BIG IMPACT

OUR HEAD OF PARTNERSHIPS, ALLAN BIRCH, DISCUSSES ETA'S CSR FOCUS AND HOW TO ENSURE RELEVANCE AND EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION FOR SMES!

How relevant is Corporate Social Responsibility for an SME?


For all those SMEs out there I want to share my experience exploring and establishing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pledge for our company.

The 3 pillars that support ETA’s 3 CSR Pledge:

  • Charitable Partnerships
  • Community Engagment
  • Environmental Responsibility

One of the reasons for sharing this was that I struggled to find much information about how to scope out and implement a CSR initiative for an SME.

Plenty of templates and case studies for blue chip corporations but they did not seem a good fit. I wanted something that was proportional and measurable for who we are and reflected our core values. I also think the term Corporate Social Responsibility sounds a bit too big for it’s boots! It often can be a aspirational plaque on the wall and not much more. With this in mind it helped me steer clear of such pitfalls.

Increasing numbers of organisations are scrutinising the CSR credentials of partners they are looking to secure goods and services from. So for practical business reasons it’s worth considering if you need a CSR policy to at least get a place at the table.

Net Zero. The beginning. It was the ‘seed’ that helped shape the idea that eventually created the framework of our CSR pledge. By that I mean back in 2021 we wanted to start practicing what we preached – after all we had started to accredit ‘green skills’ qualifications. My knowledge of Net Zero was pretty basic and so I first needed to up my game by learning more about what it actually meant and how organisations could get credibly engaged in helping to achieve this challenging goal.

Burnley College was my first stop. An excellent two part series of workshops, face to face I might add, called ‘Introduction to Net Zero Behaviours and Tools to Reduce Carbon’.

The sessions helped me get a grip of some of the key issues and navigate my way through the often confusing Net Zero language and jargon. One of my key take-aways, however, was being able to make a start on measuring our own carbon footprint.

There is a myriad of ‘carbon footprint’ measuring tools swilling around in cyber space, so it was great to get a steer from our trainer. I went with one of his recommendations and was able to take back to base and start some number crunching with my MD.

So we embarked on a green audit of ETA’s carbon footprint – using Scope’s 1 and 2 (not 3) The process was quite straightforward, involving measuring our usage in terms of:
– building’s energy (including taking into consideration home working)
– vehicle fuel
– public transport


Question: How many tonnes of carbon did we use from Jan 2022 – Dec 2022?


Answer: 22.2 tonnes in total.


As a result of this we are implementing the following initiatives/measures:
– new staff CPD activities to help drive best practice sustainable behaviours
– monitoring our suppliers green credentials as a factor in procurement decisions
– paying for off-setting contributing to the development of carbon reduction technologies.
– qualification development will include net zero behaviours wherever possible
– considering the introduction of an electric car salary sacrifice scheme

Every year we will carry out the same audit and consider any further action that is needed.


It’s worth pointing out that as a service based company our audit was far more straightforward than our SME colleagues within manufacturing or engineering for example, because we do not have a product, capital equipment, or logistics infrastructure. Of course as result of this our carbon footprint will always be considerably less.


Charity


Our Net Zero journey prompted us to consider what else we can do, and in fact what we already do.


Making charitable donations and involvement in good causes has always been something that ETA has done, but never recorded formally.


We decided that we will implement a process to ask our teams to name a charity which they want to support and stick with for 3 years, to ensure maximum impact on the lives of those who are supported by the charity.


This could be sponsorship, event fundraising, resources, donations or other sources of support.


Community


We also wanted to support our teams with supporting individual groups close to their own hearts. A flexible model engaging at a more local level which enabled colleagues to identify ways of engaging with personal good causes.


I recommended providing all staff with extra ‘volunteer’ leave each year that could be used to work with their choice of charity of community group.


ETA now have a revised HR policy that provides all staff with 2 days volunteer leave every year. We are looking forward to seeing how this will be used and hearing individual stories of positive engagement.


Moving forward


CSR can include so much more, but I felt as an SME we needed to start off with achievable value driven goals reflected in a concise 3 pillar pledge. I hope it’s simplicity will allow it to become
part of our culture and be organically developed by our teams over time.


I’m still not clear on the best way to measure the impact of the 3 pillars, although our carbon footprint is more straightforward than charity or community. Perhaps some things are best not measured, but celebrated as simply the right thing to do.


Hopefully I can report back this time next year with a positive review and some lessons learnt.


If anyone would like to know more about our journey and what we learnt along the way I’m happy to have chat or share anything that might help. And equally if anybody has any pearls of wisdom please get in touch.


Thanks,

Allan

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