The cynics of corporate social responsibility (CSR) will say that it’s a waste of time and money; “we don’t have the resources”, “it’s impossible to measure return on investment”, “how can we justify giving our employees time off to volunteer or mentor other people”. But I ask you, what’s the cost to you personally, your business and workforce of not embracing CSR?
Nick Hart, head of CSR for Turner Broadcasting, recounts a story of how he led a group of volunteer employees to Rwanda for a week to help build a school in 2010, but came across a boy with a cleft palate. A boy whose life had been ravaged by this facial disfigurement, lacked self-confidence, and didn’t fit in among his peers. Moved by this scene, Nick, on behalf of Turner, arranged for an operation to take place. A few months later after his visit, Nick received a heartfelt letter and a photo of a joyful, happy boy flashing the warmest smile. At this moment, Nick’s eyes begin to mist and he chokes up. No need for words, his emotional response says it all – a young life, transformed, forever.“The potential for employers to ‘do good’ is enormous and you don’t need lots of cash to make it happen,” Nick states. “Through CSR, you can change peoples’ lives.”
Having joined the organisation in 1999 where he was responsible for PR for the company’s entertainment channels including Cartoon Network and TCM, he then jumped at the chance to take on the role of head of CSR when it came up in June 2006. He had a free reign to build CSR into the lifeblood of the company.
Nick is based in the London office with a staff of 550 and employees are given 16 paid hours off to volunteer, as well as the opportunity to raise funds and take a week off to build a school in Africa, once a year. When he first signed up to the role he admits it was a bit of a struggle to get CSR off the ground as employees weren’t used to the concept of volunteering. However, last year, over 180 staff took part in various projects that outreached to diverse members of the community.
“Volunteering helps staff to broaden minds and open up their eyes,” explains Nick. “By witnessing the positive impact they have created, they help spread the word that volunteering is an incredible way to give back to the community.” Nick puts on a range of workshops and volunteering projects so that there’s something that will appeal to everyone. It also helps staff to engage with a diverse population and meet members of society they may not come across often. He believes that volunteering is rewarding and creates impact. Working for Turner provides the ‘feel good factor’ for employees. The organisation is not just seen as a corporate machine but that it also has heart.
Teambuilding and networking
Staff are encouraged to take part in any of the volunteering opportunities so employees from different parts of the company get to mix. A junior member of the team maybe volunteering alongside a vice president. “Volunteering is a great way for our employees to network within the business and is a useful way of progressing peoples’ careers because the experience builds lasting friendships,” explains Nick.
CSR is communicated as part of the interview process and at the monthly staff induction day. There’s also a dedicated CSR website, blog and news. http://www.ammado.com/company/turnerbroadcastingemea