Comment: Make a social cause part of your 2019 business plan

Studies have shown a strong correlation between CSR and increased productivity, says McGrath. Picture: Contributed
Studies have shown a strong correlation between CSR and increased productivity, says McGrath. Picture: Contributed
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Has 2018 been the year that your business reaped the benefits of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme? If not, I hope I can convince you that 2019 is the year to make a change because all businesses – large or small - can really benefit from connecting with charities.

CSR provides a welcome focus for employee fundraising, it demonstrates the values that your business holds dear to the wider community, and allows you to form wider links and partnerships that can only benefit businesses long-term.

As our thoughts turn to starting the New Year on the right business footing, one resolution that I would urge you to consider is to include a CSR programme within next year’s business plan. It truly need not take much effort, but I can guarantee you that it will be worth it and you will make a big difference to those in need. Indeed, your support may be the turning point that someone needs to get back on their feet.

From organising mini-fundraisers to releasing your staff for an afternoon of volunteering, your corporate outlay need only stretch to a few pounds or hours here and there.

At Scotland’s largest homelessness charity, we’ve seen first-hand how a little can go a long way. As we approach the bitter Scottish winter, it’s a particularly vulnerable time for people experiencing homelessness. In Scotland alone, 34,972 people registered as homeless last year, and this figure does not include those who are sleeping rough outside the system. For anyone living and working in Glasgow and Edinburgh, you will have seen, like us, the increasing number of people living on the streets in our cities.

Of course, the best place for these individuals is to be is in a warm and safe indoor environment. Which is why the Simon Community has launched its “Stay Warm, Stay Safe” campaign. This campaign encourages people to call our dedicated freephone numbers if you are worried about anyone who appears to be sleeping rough or on the streets. We can deploy our dedicated street teams, who are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. They carry specialist equipment and know how to respond if someone is at risk.

It’s equally important that we take a preventative approach to combat the challenges homeless people face in the winter months. We need potentially life-saving items to give to people in urgent need. That’s where our second campaign comes in. The “Twelve Days of Giving” campaign allows individuals and businesses to order essentials directly through Amazon – such as sleeping bags, thermal clothing, hats, gloves, scarves and toiletries. These vital items are despatched directly to Simon Community Scotland and we distribute them to vulnerable homeless people throughout Scotland. Already we have received more than 500 gifts to help those in need.

Your donations will be warmly welcomed. Visit our website to find out how your business can help and, if you do make a donation, please take a moment to publicise it on social and other channels. This will hopefully inspire other businesses and remind the wider public that we, and other charities, are looking for help.

The value to businesses of CSR is well documented. Studies have shown a strong correlation between CSR, increased workforce morale and productivity. All this leads to better financial performance and a stronger bottom line.

As we approach the final days of 2018, I’d like to invite you to take a few moments to consider how your business could get involved. Even better, ask your employees for suggestions. Giving back can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be, and a little goes a long way. The important thing is to get your business started on the CSR path. I hope you will do so in 2019.

- Lorraine McGrath, CEO of Simon Community Scotland and Streetwork Edinburgh