Should we drop the ‘C’ in CSR?

What did our network achieve in 2013? How can we make an even bigger impact in 2014? What does doing ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) mean today? Can responsible practices become the norm for large and small businesses?

These are some of the questions we raised with over 160 of our Heart of the City members present this morning at our annual network breakfast hosted by Mansion House.

The day started with an address to Heart of the City’s Contributors by Harvey McGrath and Carolyn Housman. Together our Chairman and our Director invited us to reflect on the change Heart of the City drives in companies, and ultimately the impact we are making in society.

Is Heart of the City changing the world? Are we an effective network? ‘Yes’ said Carolyn as she launched our 2012-13 impact report. Last year, our peer-to-peer learning programmes helped small businesses give nearly £3 million in charitable contributions to causes from Education to Health. Not less than 50% of companies who completed our 2013 Newcomers scheme introduced volunteering programmes for the first time – giving 10,000 volunteer hours to communities.

Our largest supporter businesses were also invited to look forward by Gill Parker from BDG Architecture + design, Charlotte Cowley from Columns Creative Agency and Camilla Fletcher from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Our Trustees and Contributor outlined three priorities for our network this year: activate peer-to-peer learning and advocacy to multiply responsible practices, reach out to more small businesses to support with getting started with CSR, spread our Schools to Business initiative to spread useful resources for businesses to work in schools.

In a powerful address, Carolyn Housman, Director, Heart of the City said: ‘It isn’t by chance that we are working in CSR. We do it because we believe that a change needs to happen. If we don’t build on our collective experience, future generations of businesses – the small business of today – will not create the prosperous, healthy society and economy that I know we all want.’

All Heart of the City members including smaller companies participating in our Newcomers and Alumni programmes then joined our Contributors for a panel discussion on CSR reporting chaired by David Grayson CBE, Chair of Corporate Responsibility and Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Cranfield University.

Our panel of speakers Adam Garfunkel from consultancy Junxion Strategy, Henry Stewart from IT company Happy Computer and Robert Powell from legal firm CMS Cameron McKenna discussed the value of CSR reporting. ‘Doing’ more CSR came out from the conversation as what should be the absolute primary focus for today’s companies, whilst CSR reports need to form a more trustworthy communication channel if they are to have any value.

Delegates also shared their thoughts as David Grayson opened the floor to questions. Robert Barnard-Weston, Associate, Groundswell asked whether we should finally drop the ‘C’ in ‘CSR’? A summary of the discussion is available on twitter by following @HOTC_UK and in the video above.

In a nutshell, it was a great morning hosted by our President, The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of Heart of the City who leaves us with this thought:

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, giving and CSR are good for you.  It is good for business.  It is good for our stakeholders and clients.  And it is good for the communities of which we are part. […] I believe I am the 13th President of Heart of the City.  Well, contrary to superstition I have a feeling that Number 13 is going to be very lucky indeed and I look forward to Heart of the City [members] making a real contribution to a better and more inclusive capitalism.’

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