Are current CEOs investing enough into sustainability for the future or focusing more on real-time customer engagement?

As the United Kingdom at least starts to think about life after the recession, businesses across the country will be taking very different approaches to the future of their organisations. One of the things that makes business so wonderfully diverse and challenging, is the fact that a thousand and one approaches can be taken to any aspect of operations, all with different pros and cons. One fantastic example of this is corporate social responsibility.

Whether you work for a local newsagents or a multinational law firm, at some point someone will have decided what approach they take to this very relevant theme and some brands you know very well are championing some intriguing schemes as we speak. The question is, are there enough CEO’s around the UK taking this responsibility seriously? Indeed, they are not obliged to do so, but could a pragmatic approach to this yield some incredible results; both for the firm in question and their all-important employees.

Veolia

As Estelle Brachlianoff of Veolia has recently pointed out, looking beyond short term cash flow and instead to the bigger picture, companies off shapes and sizes can reap the dividends. This can apply to employee and customer content, and also issues such as the environment and green strategies. Of course, deciding to go green and think about sustainability is not going to lead to an immediate influx of capital into your business, but in the long term the good it can do your regional and international reputation could give your corporate image an almost immeasurable boost. As Brachlianoff puts it so well “a company’s balance sheet is about much more than making money”.

Not necessarily in contrast to this, but perhaps more of a short term strategy is Lloyds Banks’ new “It’s On Us” campaign which you may have seen plastered over sponsor boards across the UK. This offer involves existing customers being rewarded for simply using their debit card with up to £500 to spend as they wish. This is being rewarded every week by the banking behemoths and on the face of it, looks like a pretty crazy promotion which will only drain money from the business’ bottom line. But this is actually another example of a firm looking beyond profits and toward the longer term strategy. It’s On Us will surely delight existing customers and sway more and more people to join the brand, at a time when trust in banks and other financial institutions is at an all-time low.

Greggs

It isn’t just resource management companies and international banking groups looking to set an example and look beyond the coffers, however. Love their pasties and sandwiches or not, Greggs have been setting an example for all to follow when it comes to recruiting their staff from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Are there risks involved? Yes. Is this something all industries can emulate, particularly white collar ones? No. Nonetheless, their policy of giving disadvantaged employees with criminal records or with little or no work experience has paid dividends for them and provided immense media coverage for the bakery.

Summary

You only have to see how many stores there now are nationwide and how busy they are every day to see how strong the brand is, really emphasising how the less obvious business models, which may not necessarily boost the bottom line immediately, can and will pay off when approached pragmatically.

At the end of the day, every aspect of business needs to be approached intelligently and executed by professionals with the right amount of courage and acumen. But by looking at out of the box initiatives that will stand the test of time instead of providing that short term spike in income that all businesses seem to crave; brands could well propel themselves at a time when our economy can start to look the future once again.