Australian businesses that incorporate corporate social responsibility into their operations are fast discovering the competitive edge it provides them. As consumers increasingly expect organisations to operate in a socially responsible manner, corporate social responsibility is becoming a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.
Inclusive employment practices offer businesses an opportunity to enhance corporate social responsibility – while reaping a range of other benefits.
What is corporate social responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility is a concept that describes ethical business practice. Being a good corporate citizen requires organisations to consider the economic, social, and environmental consequences of their activities. Businesses that can call on their corporate social responsibility credentials are able to demonstrate a genuine commitment to the communities they operate in.
As more companies incorporate corporate social responsibility into their business operations businesses that don’t improve their operations run the risk over being overlooked by both customers and prospective employees.
Human rights and corporate social responsibility
Businesses looking to improve their corporate social responsibility must consider their triple bottom line. The triple bottom line makes up the three pillars of corporate social responsibility:
- Economic (e.g. labour rights and fair wages)
- Environmental (e.g. production practices that limit air pollution and water contamination)
- Social (e.g. inclusive staffing practices).
It is in this third pillar (social) that EPIC Assist specialises – each year we help hundreds of businesses start their corporate social responsibility journey.
Inclusive staffing and customer engagement practices are needed to ensure businesses are non-discriminatory. Embedding inclusion within a corporate social responsibility strategy helps deliver equal opportunities regardless of individual attributes such as race, culture, gender, age, and disability.
Corporate social responsibility is a good investment, not just ‘goodwill’
Being an ethical corporate citizen is not only the right thing to do – it makes good business sense. A business’s current and future employees, corporate partners, and customers all respond to strategies that foster diversity through corporate social responsibility.
Businesses with an inclusive corporate social responsibility strategy can diversify their workforce, attract and retain high-calibre employees, and weave ethical practice into the fabric of their business through their most valuable asset – their employees.
That’s because a well-defined corporate social responsibility strategy can help attract and retain the right staff.
When diversity is considered in an organisation’s overall approach to corporate social responsibility, it can translate into:
- increased innovation
- improved productivity
- a more positive workplace culture
- greater employee satisfaction.
Many potential employees measure workplaces against their own ethical yardstick. They want their personal beliefs to be mirrored in the organisation’s values, mission, and ethical practices. When this occurs, it provides employees with more motivation than just financial reward; they become invested. Inclusive corporate social responsibility policies speak volumes to all people, and especially talented individuals from diverse backgrounds.
The different skills that arise from unique perspectives and life experiences are an asset to companies who want to innovate. For example, people with disability are often natural problem solvers, having had to navigate a world that is generally not built with their needs in mind. Their lateral thinking skills and resilience can help companies to view challenges differently, and discover new opportunities that may not have been recognised before.
Having a diverse workforce can also help companies to view their market through a ‘lens of inclusion’. Every community – and therefore every customer base – comprises people with different strengths, challenges, needs and wants. Viewing these differences through a lens of inclusion allows companies to see that every member of their market deserves equal access and rights, and can work towards delivering a more equitable customer experience. In turn, this can expand the reach of a company’s products and services, which adds to the bottom line.
Unethical practices can have severe environmental, social, economic consequences and can damage a brand’s reputation. While environmental disasters like the Volkswagen emissions scandal often come to mind as examples of poor corporate social responsibility, human rights failings are hitting the headlines more often. The Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh and discrimination allegations against rideshare company Uber are just two examples that demonstrate the consequences of disregarding workplace safety and equity.
Companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility contribute to the health and welfare of society, and boost their brand’s reputation in the process. The Dove Self-Esteem Project and Zambrero’s Plate 4 Plate initiative demonstrate how ethical practice can strengthen brand perception.
A note of caution about corporate social responsibility
Communities recognise when a business’s approach to corporate social responsibility is potentially disingenuous. This reinforces the need to embed corporate social responsibility in every level of the organisation, ensuring practices align with the company’s mission, vision and values.
Inclusive employment practices can embed corporate social responsibility within your business
Corporate social responsibility should be embedded in all aspects of an organisation – a great place to start is with inclusive recruitment practices. This requires more than a statement on a job ad encouraging people from diverse backgrounds to apply. It requires a shift in hiring practices that recognises the valuable contributions that people with different attributes can make, and the commitment to support them in their roles for long-term success.
Inclusive workplaces benefit from tapping into a largely overlooked talent pool of job-ready individuals who are motivated to work.
Data from the Australian Network on Disability reveals that businesses that provide employment opportunities for people with disability benefit from:
- less absenteeism
- increased retention
- lower recruitment costs
- increased work performance
- improved workplace morale
- fewer workplace injuries.
One in five Australians has a disability. Despite this, people with disability remain one of the most underrepresented groups in the Australian workforce. The biggest barrier to employment for people with disability is not their disability, but rather society’s low expectations and the attitudes held by many employers. Your business can help make a positive change in these misperceptions.
Inclusive employment made easy
EPIC Assist works with businesses to help them recognise that inclusion is more than just ‘doing the right thing’ – what’s good for society is good for business.
We work in partnership with businesses to streamline the process of attracting and retaining employees with disability. Our services include:
- Diversity and inclusion training for HR managers, senior management, and teams
- Recruitment support, such as finding simple ways to adapt interviews to give people with different abilities the best chance at success
- Workplace adjustments, including accessing government funding, to help your new employee to thrive in their role
- On-the-job support for as long the employer and employee need it.
All businesses, no matter their industry or size, can benefit from including disability employment within their corporate social responsibility strategy. Contact EPIC Assist today and realise what’s possible for your organisation.