Corporate social responsibility – what does it mean to this year’s AIA participants?
In this age of rising business ethics, global warming and social injustice, corporate social responsibility is increasingly taken for granted when doing business. How do the Accenture Innovation Awards (AIA) 2018 contestants view corporate social responsibility? Not only do socially responsible firms attract talent, they are also externally perceived as attractive to collaborate with. Therefore, embracing it enhances their reputation. Being socially responsible is also crucial for us at AIA because we want to encourage meaningful innovations that address and solve issues not only on a corporate, but also on a societal level.
We have interviewed some of this year’s AIA participants and below is what 11 of them consider their number one sustainability issues.
After evaluation, we have concluded that there are three categories in which the term ‘corporate social responsibility’, or sustainability, can be placed. First, the majority of those interviewed have identified that social responsibility is a core value within the company, even a reason why the given company was established. Second, some have equaled social responsibility with the need for environmental sustainability and consciousness about energy waste. Finally, a sizeable portion of the interviewees have defined the term as a matter of inclusiveness and facilitating the connection between consumers and producers. Hence, there is a clear divide between viewing corporate social responsibility as treating the environment right and helping create sustainable, long-lasting relationships between consumers and businesses. Who prioritized what?
Social responsibility as a reason for establishment
Spinn, an innovative coffee maker that creates zero environmental waste using only beans and a centrifugal force to brew the morning cup, has defined social responsibility as being proactive through combining the right processes, concepts and decisions to help “solve future issues”.
For Steel Mountain, however, corporate social responsibility is the whole reason why the company was established. William Butler, the CEO and co-founder, claims that the firm’s mission statement aligns with their personal value – ensuring internet safety. Steel Mountain’s product Secaura connects itself to a home’s Wi-Fi router and succinctly protects against attacks anywhere in the network, 24/7. Such a response is not surprising in today’s digital age full of cyberthreats.
A desire to contribute to corporate social responsibility was also a reason for Doks Innovation to be established. Fair payment, work flexibility, and being a good corporate citizen are all extremely important values to the company. Doks Innovation, only a one-year-old innovator, is providing drone and sensor technology to the logistics, manufacturing and automotive industries.
Smartbridge Group, an innovator in healthcare, is driven by a strong mission to increase accessibility to high-quality cancer care. Doing this is exactly how Hua Wang, the CEO, defines social responsibility. To her, it’s about solving real-life issues in an original, innovative way. The company gives cancer patients 24/7 access to quality-verified oncologists and hopes to cure cancer at scale.
For Be My Eyes, an innovator based in Denmark and the United States, social responsibility likewise means to increase and improve the inclusion of people and accessibility to a higher quality of life. They connect blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers through a free app. For Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, the CCO, it is part of their philosophy that accessibility should also mean financial accessibility, so they will “never charge […] visually impaired users, no matter how much they use [the app]”. That is their responsible way of doing business. The reason for doing so, according to Jensen, is that it is the “right thing to do” and it also “poses a major business opportunity” to see previously unseen human potential.
Social responsibility as human consciousness about energy waste
As mentioned before, the second tranche of respondents have related social responsibility to the need for environmental consciousness. Enerbrain, an Italian innovator turning ‘dumb’ buildings into smart and more sustainable ones thanks to IoT hardware, stated that through their work they want to make the public more aware of energy consumption. This way, social responsibility is created, awareness of an increasingly high and wasteful energy consumption is raised and, in turn, people may become more proactive in protecting the environment.
Furthermore, environmental consciousness was highlighted by Mauricio Esguerra, the CEO and co-founder of Magment. To him, creating “environmentally responsible mobility” by stopping the use of non-renewable fuels by using recycled materials from e-waste instead is one of his strongest points of view on social responsibility. They do this by creating their innovative product – magnetizable concretes for inductive wireless charging. On the one hand, this technology helps save raw materials. On the other hand, having an international team with a mix of experiences is also a way to promote social responsibility. Why? To drive innovation through diversity of course!
3PM is another innovator to whom social responsibility means a mix of the categories we identified. First, working with the understanding in mind that what is done now will influence future generations is a core value of the company, which contributes to being socially responsible. Second, as the employees of the company are volunteering at Romania’s Sustainability Embassy, this means that they value a prosperous and healthier future of our planet. 3PM is making a blended learning app, where the study is divided between in-class training and mobile learning.
So, how does Accenture contribute to environmental sustainability? The Accenture Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program involves multiple initiatives. These include one initiative where we use Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics to make clients reduce energy consumption and, hence, costs. Besides helping clients and other stakeholders, we have also surpassed our goal to reduce per-employee carbon emissions by 50 percent three years ahead of schedule.
Social responsibility as building sustainable relationships
To Resortecs, a Belgian engineering innovator, corporate social responsibility also means a mix of different values. On the one hand, says Cedric Vanhoeck, having a positive environmental impact is important to be accountable for. On the other hand, establishing a positive connection between the stakeholders and the locals is key so that local textile recycling can take place at their production locations. Resortecs develops techniques for disassembly and recycling of textiles, thereby contributing to the circular economy.
UnifyMe, another young innovator, prioritizes a positive connection between its stakeholders through their single platform, to unify business communication and increase efficiency. To them, sustainability means offering technology to simplify one’s life through a centralized platform. That’s how small and medium-sized businesses are able to compete with larger firms in an affordable way.
Finally, Gosherpy claims that it is their corporate social responsibility to develop inclusive financial services that can positively impact the financial success of people. They have recently launched a product that allows charities connect to millennials and let them help raise funds.
At Accenture, we contribute to building sustainable relationships with projects like Skills to Succeed, Make a Difference Battle, Tech4Good and The Refugee Talent Hub. The Skills to Succeed initiative “advances employment and entrepreneurship opportunities” for vulnerable and marginalized people globally, explains Laura van den Hurk, the CSR Community Manager in the Netherlands. Accenture has materialized its need for sustainable partnerships by creating an ecosystem of partners such as nonprofits, universities and social enterprises. It serves to test and prototype innovative solutions “to help close skills and employment gaps for vulnerable people, particularly focusing on disadvantaged youth, people with disabilities and refugee talents,” Van den Hurk adds. In addition, the use of AI and blockchain addresses complex societal challenges, such as identity management for refugees with the ID2020 project.
As you can see, both Accenture and the Accenture Innovation Awards’ contestants are original in their own way. There is not one organization that has not taken corporate social responsibility into consideration when innovating. Corporate social responsibility means taking care of the environment, setting up long lasting stakeholder relationships, taking care of the environment. It’s not only about creating your own values, but also about actively incorporating them into the core of your business. Well done to all the participants who are realizing those goals! It’s great to see that the AIA ecosystem fully supports social responsibility.