Corporate Social Responsibility, Reporting it, and the Facilities Manager

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the latest name of a business philosophy that’s been around for the last 50 years or so.

It’s about where a corporation or business sits within the wider picture – socially, environmentally, charitable, and so on. Company CSR’s in action will see staff members released from daily duties to help a local charity (for example, at Newcastle Building Society) or a litter-picking program (KFC, McDonalds, or so on). In its crudest terms, it’s about “giving back to society.”

Differing opinions on the value of CSR

Views vary on CSR. Legendary economist, Milton Friedman, wasn’t a fan, calling it “hypocritical window-dressing” and a “fundamentally subversive doctrine” in a stinging 1970 New York Times article called “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” Many environmental charities regularly poke fun at oil and gas companies’ CSRs, labelling their activities as “greenwashing”.

On the other hand, a 2015 report by Harvard Business School reported that “firms with good ratings on material sustainability issues significantly outperform firms with poor ratings on these issues.” And that outperformance includes profitability.

According to Business Reporting, of the many challenges facing FM and FM providers today, they can include, but aren’t limited to, “doing more with less, aging assets, rising energy costs, life cycle sustainability, and socially responsible solutions.” They cite the example of Bandera, an FM service provider. As part of their CSR responsibilities to one particular client, Bandera provided them with a saving of £1.2m by installing a patented solar AC panel system, rewarding that client with a 100% return on their FM contract investment. In anyone’s book, that’s great business.

So is CSR a fancy way of cutting costs and maybe jobs?

Some might say so. More and more however, their views are in the minority.

In a recent blog post, Maxwell Stephens discussed the seemingly unstoppable growth in the provision of FM management services for the public sector. For any of you who have ever filled in a tender document, it’s a highly time-consuming, intellectually-driven process.

Success in tender bidding is not only down to the cost you want to charge to fulfil the contract – there are many other factors to consider. Many tendering bodies like to see robust policies on hiring from minority ethnic groups and from potential employees living with disabilities. A track record carrying out similar contracts to the one on offer is also a big thing for many decision makers.

With downward pressure continuing in public sector spending, a solid track record in successfully providing environmentally-driven CSR programs is becoming an increasing draw for taxpayer-funded bodies.

Not only does it offer the potential for large savings on contract fulfilment (just like with the Bandera example above), it makes it easier to sell the awarding of a contract to the public if the winner is seen to be environmentally- and/or socially-aware. Especially so in a world where 77% of consumers (i.e. taxpayers) feel it is important for companies to be socially responsible.

As the popularity and uptake of CSR continues to grow, which related additional responsibilities might you be expected to take on and what type of reports will you have to produce?

Your world as an FM manager most likely already has many different reporting responsibilities, from budget management to risk assessments and asset registers to maintenance.

Michael Arny, president of the Leonardo Academy, breaks CSR and CSR reporting down. The biggest part of any report you produce will likely be related to what you use and how it affects the environment, including emissions, environmental impacts on land and water, use of resources (both your company and your supply chain), waste management and utility usage.

Other sections may include social performance (how you relate to the communities in the immediate vicinities of your buildings), treatment of staff (including supply chain), and financial governance (is it open and accountable to shareholder and stakeholders?)

As with all the reports you produce, given the potential complexity of an FM CSR report, we advise that this is something you update either every fortnight or month. Keeping in touch with it regularly will not only improve your CSR performance as a manager but also make the production of quarterly or yearly reports with running commentary much easier.

Is this a career opportunity for you?

We certainly think so. The BIFM’s Level 3 Qualification in Facilities Management now includes CSR as one of its modules.

In its course description, the BIFM states “(t)his unit addresses the definition of corporate social responsibility and sustainability; and the contribution that can be made by facilities management. The unit addresses the potential impact of an organisation’s arrangements for facilities management on the organisation’s external environment.”

Whether you work in or for the private or public sector, there’s a chance to separate yourself from competitors for jobs with a sound intellectual and practical knowledge of CSR. Particularly within local councils whose Government subsidy disappears completely in 2020.

To talk about CSR as part of your professional portfolio, please call Maxwell Stephens on 0207 118 48 48 or email info@maxwellstephens.com

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