How improvements to business efficiency and productivity could generate positive community impacts

Over the past decade many of the world’s most successful global businesses have started to look beyond traditional corporate-charity models to a more responsive style of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which seeks to embed social awareness within the heart of their everyday operations. Over this period we have seen the emergence of a range of measures which seek to soften what are collectively referred to as ‘community impacts’ either through fostering stronger relationships with host communities or by identifying direct impacts arising from operations and finding ways to address these.

Measures such as ‘community forums’, ‘local supply chain strategies’ and the introduction of community ownership schemes are now common across industry and these measures are helping to transform host communities’ views on the operations located there.

One question SLR Consulting is often asked by companies active in this space is whether ‘socially responsible’ measures such as these can be adopted in a way which actually improves business efficiency and productivity, or in other words, is it possible to improve our bottom line and help our host community at the same time?

One way in which this can be achieved is by adopting a simple multi- staged process which seeks to firstly profile the local operation before identifying the prevailing issues facing the host community and seeking to identify symbiotic opportunities to combine the company’s expertise, skills and resources and using these to create longer lasting local community impacts. This approach is set out as follows. 

Stage 1: profiling the business operation.  Collate data about the facility’s key environmental and socio-economic outputs and outcomes (we find much of this is often available in existing reporting). Whilst many of these could be perceived as being adverse impacts (albeit mitigated and compliant) such as waste or air emissions there are also likely to be positive impacts already arising from the existing operations such as the creation of jobs or opportunities for local supply chain companies. 

Stage 2: profiling the local community. Profile the environmental and socio-economic characteristics of the host community for the facility to identify the main issues of high sensitivity, concern or importance in the local area. As well as looking for answers to the question “what are the key issues facing this community”? (which, for example, could be access to water or flood prevention) research can be undertaken to investigate opportunities to improve the lives of the local community. 

Stage 3: identification of symbiotic opportunities. This involves identifying the potential for symbiotic linkages between the facility’s local impacts and the high sensitivity issues affecting the local community.  Each opportunity has a different profile with some providing a potential commercial business benefit, others strengthening the health, education or resource of skilled and reliable workers. Examples of these might include:

  • Energy: is there surplus power that could be sold to cheapen or strengthen the supply issues identified in the host community? Could a power supply upgrade to facilitate a new factory extension be further upgraded for potential of energy offtake in the local community?
  • Water, Wastes and emissions: Is there a surplus of clean water from site supplies which could be diverted into the local community? Could waste heat be used by local industry e.g. aquaculture, floriculture etc. or for curing of products e.g. concrete? Could waste water be diverted to enhance irrigation capacity?
  • Employment / Training: Can local skills be encouraged through partnership with local schools? Would this help to reduce staff turnover through recruitment of more workers of higher skill level from the local area?
  • Social: Do on site health facilities have capacity to out-reach to local communities or provide enhanced specialist skills?

Stage 4 Prioritisation and implementation. These symbiotic opportunities can then be ranked in order of priority (as defined by the business) with mechanisms for implementation being identified either by the business, by 3rd party NGO, or the charity. 

By integrating these measures into their everyday operations, it is possible for companies to improve profitability at the same time as boosting their CSR credentials, helping to create a win/win scenario which is good for business and creates long lasting community benefits. 

To talk specifically about how SLR can help your business benefit from a stronger symbiotic relationship with its host
communities please contact Sue or Alan below.