Social Responsibility - it isn't all that easy!

I know that SHRM annual conference held in New Orleans at the end of June is all over, and so much has happened since then, but I can’t help but reflect on one company that I met there that also had another agenda while there – one that is not always visible or audible. No it is not subliminal suggestions being played through the loudspeakers (buy my product, buy my product), but it is "Social Responsibility" . According to Wikipedia, this is “the obligation of organization management to make decision and take actions that will enhance the welfare and interests of society as well as the organization”. I think that it is also referred to as “Corporate Social Responsibility”, “Corporate Responsibility” and “Corporate Citizenship”, and some may even say “Cause marketing”.

As I was wandering around the conference floor, I witnessed demonstrations in booths that instead of the attendees receiving a gift or give away for their time, they got to choose one of 3 or 4 mentioned charities and the company would donate a specific amount to that charity at the end of SHRM. There have been other programs and all fabulous ideas that I have seen over the last couple of years conferences and events by Monster , TheRightThing , OCTanner , Ceridian , , Workscape and more.

But the story that really struck me as amazing, was the group of people that flew into New Orleans a couple of days early, already away from their families, brought along their boots, work socks, work gloves, work clothes and determination to make a difference with sweat and hard labor. The good people of Peopleclick coordinated time and muscle power for Coastal Habitat for Humanity , a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry while in New Orleans. This short recording shows some of what they did (, but I am sure you are not able to feel the heat they felt, taste the salt on their lips as they worked, feel the muscles screaming as they worked beyond what they were used to. But you also may not be able to imagine the wonderful sense of accomplishment as they were working together, satisfaction that they had made a difference in a family’s life, and help to build a stronger community. Now THAT is one aspect of social responsibility.

But this leads me to another thing to ponder - is that all there is to it? – a company is considered “Socially Responsible” if they give to the environment/community/world like this? Well there also needs to be thought on how is the company run on a daily basis. Does what they offer impact the environment and what they can do to positively change that. How do they treat their employees and the specific community issues that they have? Should they also be looking at the immediate local impact they have?

What about their employees. Is the company empowering them to also make a positive impact for their “passion” cause. I work for a wonderful company that has created the opportunity that all of their employees give time to their causes, and in order to facilitate that, will pay for a full day for each employee to volunteer to their heartfelt cause. This speaks volumes to their employees and to society that Fisher Vista wants to make a difference through their employees. Tell me what other companies have done this – no I mean it - tell me your stories.

I do not want to downplay the strong contribution that PeopleClick or any of the other companies mentioned, has had with their outward looking cause; but I do encourage that it needs to go beyond this one-time event – looking internally, locally and internationally and on a continuing basis. If you can do all of that – and remain profitable, now that would be considered a truly socially responsible company. Do you know of any?

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