CSR Spells Success for Services Firm
CSR Spells Success for Services Firm
Corporate social responsibility, also referred to as sustainability, has rapidly become a ‘must’ in international business. If you’re operating abroad, there are local regulatory requirements to meet. Expectations are increasingly high. Investors, clients, partners, employees and local stakeholders are demanding transparent, ethical and responsible corporate practices. Yet it’s much more than that. Integrating socially responsible behaviour into your company’s operations can also benefit your bottom line.
“Companies need to comply with certain protocols to get access to capital and initiate operations internationally,” says Agnieszka Rum, CSR Advisor at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. “We’re moving from risk management to driving value creation opportunities, which can help secure long-term business growth.”
Rum agrees. “If Canadian companies want to operate internationally, they need to achieve value for external stakeholders in the market and look for shared value opportunities to generate more business.” Investors are also setting the bar higher, expecting transparency and sustainable corporate practices that include disclosing environmental and social risks, and reporting on opportunities and performance.Stantec, the professional services consulting firm, has 11,000 employees in offices worldwide and offers design, engineering, project management and other services for infrastructure and facilities projects. “Sustainability is a huge priority for our international business,” says Senior Sustainability Consultant Wesley Gee. “A large number of our clients, both public and private, have high expectations. So do employees. They want us to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to what industry wants and needs.”
Stantec turned the growing demand into a business opportunity. The company now has a sustainability division for planning, architecture, engineering, surveying and project management services. “Many of our clients are saving much more money in buildings and infrastructure assets,” says Gee. For example, Wal-Mart is maximizing geothermal energy through its geo-exchange initiative at its model store in Burlington. Stantec has also created neutral and revenue generating buildings for some clients through design and build projects that generate more energy than they consume.
Gee says there are good lessons to be learned from Stantec’s clients’ experiences.
“With sustainability strategies in place, companies can focus their initiatives and energies based on having a stronger understanding of what matters most to the people who matter most. This approach can improve their reputation and appeal, along with their ability to communicate and engage in a meaningful way with local stakeholders.”
“Local engagement is essential,” says Rum. “Ethical and transparent practices help businesses earn that social licence to trade, extract, procure or sell. This is especially true for heavy industries such as oil and gas, energy, utilities and mining, where public resistance is generally highest. Incorporating local feedback into your operations means you’re more likely to get permits and begin operations sooner. Profits can come more quickly.”
It’s an approach that is paying dividends for Stantec and others. “We’re helping our clients evaluate risks, identify opportunities and improve performance. Our goal is to get them to move away from ‘random acts of kindness’ and focus on what’s material to their business—and their bottom line,” says Gee. “For Stantec, it means we’re no longer competing for everyday pieces of the pie. We’re actually widening the pie.”
As for Gee’s advice to other companies looking to step up their sustainability efforts? “Sustainability shouldn’t only be about how much more money you’re going to make. To remain competitive and to thrive, you must embrace it. It’s about survival.”