An update from Gemma Branney, Head of CSR at Specialist Staffing Group

Building a better normal with connected responsibility

The world today has changed considerably from how we were living even just six months ago. Across the globe we are in various guises of lockdown as we respond to COVID-19 with recovery, response, and future planning activities changing from country to country. But as businesses look towards a “new normal,” what does this mean for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) teams? Do we want to build a new normal? Or does this give us an opportunity to build back better?


CR&S through a business eye

Over recent years investors have changed how they assess businesses. As well as financial assessments, ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) assessments are now common practice. This is because more and more businesses are understanding that CR&S isn’t just about ticking a box, paying lip service, and “green washing” your marketing. Outcome led CR&S provides tangible benefits for organizations the world over.

According to McKinsey & Company, the bottom line is clear – a strong ESG proposition doesn’t weaken a company’s financial position, it strengthens their return. This data clearly demonstrates that that when CR&S is authentically embedded into the fabric and culture of an organization, that business is more likely to be successful.


CR&S is not a singular functional entity

I think one of the most important things when it comes to CR&S is cohesion. For me, corporate responsibility has to be authentically incorporated into the fabric of your business model. It needs to be threaded throughout your organization and align to a company’s values, culture, and purpose. And CR&S has to be genuine, authentic, and impact driven.

More important than anything though, it cannot be one singular functional entity. For CR&S to be effective, it has to flow through the entire organization – it should touch every part of a business, threading through every process, activity and decision. Having clarity of your CR&S priorities, effectively communicating these and building a framework to ensure ESG is considered at all times is how you ensure authenticity.  Everyone within your business needs to understand your ambition and how their role contributes to this, no matter where they sit in the organization.


CR&S in your culture helps communities

At Specialist Staffing Group we are continuing to build our environmental, social and governance frameworks and utilizing our business model to positively impact our stakeholders. We don’t have all the answers, but we do understand that it isn’t the role of one team to deliver this – rather, it’s something we organically deliver throughout our business.

As a global society, we’ve all felt the recent pain of markets crumbling, businesses falling, and people losing jobs. As a business focused on recruitment, with social responsibility embedded into our culture, it’s not surprising that we felt compelled to do something to help. And we recently launched an initiative that was born from a simple impulse from one of our recruitment consultants.


How our employability program supported communities

Across Specialist Staffing Group, our people are pro-active by nature – and this can lead to great things. Jacob Silverman, one of our recruiters in the US, realized that he had the right skills to support those out of work at this time, and so published a post on LinkedIn offering anyone who’d been impacted by the pandemic a free resume reviewing service. It might have been a small gesture, but thanks to his keen sense of giving back, this has now grown into a company adopted program that’s assisted almost 120 people across the globe.

For me, this is an example of how it should be. This wasn’t an idea that was born from a meeting room of executive leaders or something that came from my team. It’s an idea that was able to grow organically because corporate responsibility is embedded into the very fabric of our organization.

Collaboration, alignment, and authenticity is the key to successful CR&S. This enables us to build a better environment that promotes giving back.


How will CR&S move forward?

There is a risk that as we enter the “new normal,” businesses will only prioritize profit, and the opportunity to build back better is lost. I understand that recovery needs to happen at speed for many business leaders, but it’s my belief that including ESG considerations to recovery plans will provide longer term success and ensure we work towards the sustainable future our world desperately needs.

When we look back at 2020, there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a profound milestone in the world’s history. And we’ll remember a lot of things – I believe that one of the big things we will all remember are the companies who rose to the challenge, and those who did not. Those who are using their platform to help their community and are protecting their people will be recognized in the history books – what will be your legacy from 2020?


*Specialist Staffing Group is the US division of SThree plc.

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