The Secret Sauce of Corporate Social Responsibility
A lot has been said about the responsibility of today’s companies to practice sustainability and good corporate citizenship. While these terms are often used interchangeably, the concepts are actually separate and distinct. Corporate social responsibility balances current stakeholder interests while sustainability focuses on creating and maximizing long-term economic, social and environmental value. Both are equally important to an organization’s stakeholders. Companies seeking to attract investors, employees and business partners need to demonstrate operational excellence, regulatory compliance, environmental and community stewardship, customer satisfaction and a strong corporate culture. These essentials, along with traditional financial performance, make up the secret sauce of responsible corporate citizenship. The essence of corporate sustainability practices meets the needs of today without hindering the ability to meet the needs of future generations.
Rising to the Challenge…even in Pandemic
It is no secret that COVID-19 has tested the preparedness and business continuity response plans of organizations across the globe. Companies first and foremost continue to refine measures to keep their employees and customers safe. As a water service provider – we need to have adequate measures and trained staff in place to maintain full operations critical to public health protection. And with that responsibility comes a need to do what we reasonably can to address short term considerations such as being sensitive to financial challenges facing segments of our customer base by suspending shutoffs for non-payment in the face of a pandemic and supporting local COVID-19 relief efforts through charitable contributions. And then, even in the midst of a pandemic, we need to focus on the long term — continuing critical construction projects that will ensure reliability and resiliency of our water distribution system for years to come. How companies manage their workforce and operations during a crisis speaks volumes as to how responsibly they perform outside of one.
What Constitutes Responsible Behavior?
An organization needs to balance the interests of its stakeholders — employees, customers, investors, vendors, regulators and many others. Each of these stakeholder groups has their own perspective of responsible corporate behavior. For some, treating employees fairly, promoting diversity and giving back to society are ideals that embody good corporate citizenship.
Others believe a company’s corporate governance and how it approaches risk management are the truest tales of corporate responsibility. How a company manages its people and its processes provides keen insight into its operations. A Code of Conduct, strong internal controls, vendor review and performance protocols, audit committees and risk management training can play a critical role in planning for and managing risks which safeguard the interests of all of stakeholders.
Compliance and Environmental Impact
Some view how a company manages its impact on the environment and compliance with laws and regulations laid out by legal and regulatory authorities as the clearest picture of how a company acts responsibly. Water utility companies are tasked with protecting this valuable natural resource while, at the same time, providing around the clock, on-demand service to users. To do this well, we need to make prudent ongoing investments in drinking water infrastructure to maintain and enhance water quality. We need to better understand our use of energy sources, track water loss and employ leak detection processes and related technology. Operating within the sustainable mindset encourages proper asset management and practices to reduce our environmental impact.
Creating Long Term Value for Stakeholders
Operating in a fiscally responsible manner with plans in place for growth and profitability is essential if a company is to survive and flourish. Economic performance, another principle by which companies are examined, is necessary to create jobs and retain qualified talent, incentivize investors, attract vendor partners, make infrastructure investments and support economic activity and stability.
While there are many ways to present a corporate sustainability report, the main idea is to help interested parties understand the significance of assessing the factors that play a role in the responsible operation of businesses. It’s also important for an organization to be able to be transparent in its processes and track progress towards improvements. In our maiden edition of our Corporate Sustainability Report, we address how our collective actions and approach to sustainability creates long term value for stakeholders. By outlining our business philosophy and culture we hope you gain a complete understanding of our business and how acting in a responsible manner not only complements, but further contributes to our overall business performance.