On Wednesday 20th May 2015, a group of leading communications experts gathered at Farrer & Co for a dinner debate on ‘What is the best way to show you are a good corporate citizen?’ The discussion, chaired by Julian Pike, with guest speaker Vickie Sheriff, Director of Global Communications for Diageo, started by looking at the very essence of being a good corporate citizen.  To give colour and context to the debate, Question and Retain (Q&R) pulse checked the wider communications community for their views on the best way to show you are a good corporate citizen. The results were as follows:

After a review of the findings, guests at the dinner made the following observations:

  • the need to define what CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) stands for today and how important it is for large companies to show how CSR initiatives are valued and assessed in equal measure against financial performance
  • how much residual cynicism remains around the topic of CSR and its relationship with financial performance 
  • how the wave of millennials arriving in the workplace has prompted a larger focus on accountability and credibility for large organisations 
  • the rise of increased responsibility at both a company and individual level when it comes good CSR practice
  • the need for CSR to help solve key business issues e.g. sustainability – without being financially motivated so that companies are seen to be ‘acting in the best interests of their shareholders and key stakeholders’
  • there is an opportunity for companies to collaborate together to achieve great CSR impact – however unlikely

The discussion progressed further to explore the roles of truth and honesty in CSR and how companies must be more and more transparent when explaining its investments in order to achieve a position of authenticity. 

In conclusion, guests offered his/her ‘big idea’ on how companies can achieve good corporate citizenship and these were:

  • Look at best practice e.g. Plan A (Marks & Spencer) and follow suit
  • Use simple language when describing CSR initiatives
  • Re-brand the term ‘sustainability’ because everyone is tired of hearing it
  • Ensure you are relevant to your core business when investing in CSR
  • Be authentic every step of the way
  • Eliminate any ‘froth’ from your CSR communications
  • Be transparent or you will be seen as paying lip service
  • The reality that the challenge is much bigger than we think i.e. solving the energy equation – we need to solve problems rather than simply defend the margin
  • Keep believing and have hope that business can come together and be imaginative
  • The world is broad and beautiful and we need to stop talking about problems all the time
  • Truth and honesty are key
  • In a world ruled by social media, no one is fooled
  • What is the true definition of partnership – coming together for the purpose of profit
  • Company Culture – CSR this needs to fit within this
  • Important to celebrate life and recognise that there is a clear link between what we do and what we say