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Should businesses be rated on their contribution to society?

May 10, 2018

Many companies support young talent through bursaries or training initiatives, collaborate with charitable projects to provide tools or services while others simply donate to charity.

But why do it? Has it become just a ‘tick in the CSR box’ for today’s business community?  Or even an easy win for an overstretched PR team?

Speaking at a recent Institute of Directors lunch, Association of Guernsey Charities vice-chairman Peter Rose featured statistics that highlighted around 500 active local charities in Guernsey, almost twice as many per head when compared to the UK population. He also noted the local voluntary effort would cost the States of Guernsey between £75m and £120m per year if they had to fund it themselves. We certainly are spoilt for choice as to ways in which we can all help Guernsey’s third sector.

Understanding the hours of community investment is interesting but it struck me that we don’t know which businesses contribute most to society. The nature of our small island community means you could give it a good guess, but that guess might be biased towards those who are shouting the loudest about their efforts.

At the recent EY Careers and Skills Show, C5 Alliance was the only IT company to attend. This came as a total surprise to me given the frequent call from many local businesses (including ours) to invest in digital skills for Guernsey’s long-term benefit.

Although we don’t receive funding from the States of Guernsey to make an impact on improving digital skills, we choose to play our part – offering an annual bursary, taking part in IoD Management Shadowing, taking work experience placements and delivering talks to students. We also take on a Discover Digital Internship student and actively engage them in live client projects.  From the top down, we are helping to shape strategy – I freely give time to the Chamber of Commerce and the IoD. Every employee takes part in fundraising activities and we actively collaborate with charities to improve their operations using technology.

Five-star movement

So, taking this a step forward, what if there was a local five-star rating system for companies’ community activity? This measurable way of understanding and comparing businesses to their peers would not only inform potential customers about a business’s social ethos before they engage their services, but it would be a stake in the ground to encourage community-minded activity. It could also starkly highlight those who need to do more for society.

It’s 2018 and ratings service platforms like TripAdvisor, Airbnb and Uber are commonplace; we instantly take to our preferred social media channel to applaud or criticise our latest meal out or flight delay. Whether we like it or not these digital first businesses have fostered new society norms.

Popular satire series Black Mirror, recently created an episode called ‘Nosedive’ where citizens were ranked on their online and in-person interactions on a five-star scale. Their score then determined their value to society, their access to services and their employability.  The episode followed a young woman who after a series of unfortunate events gets her rating score pushed down to below three. This led to her not being able to purchase a plane ticket or hire a car and left her feeling excluded, disliked, downgraded and categorized as a second-class citizen.

Interestingly, the Chinese Government plans to launch a Social Credit System in 2020 which will rate its 1.3 billion residents on their trustworthiness. An individual’s rating would be publicly ranked against the entire population and will be used to determine eligibility for a mortgage, job, a school place or even just their chances of getting a date. So maybe Black Mirror wasn’t looking at a dystopian and unrealistic future after all.

So how would it work?

Our rating system could to be administered by the Guernsey Community Foundation , with companies paying a nominal fee to be rated across a number of social factors.  If approached in the right way I believe this could be another good news story to set Guernsey plc. apart from the many jurisdictions we now compete with, attracting businesses to invest here and benefitting society as a whole.

A company’s score on their contribution to society would determine how likely a client, customer or business would be to use their services whilst giving Government an independent review source when selecting suppliers. It would also clearly highlight those organisations which need to do more for society.

Ultimately a score system would drive businesses to increase their impact on society and therefore the amount of time or money given to charity. No organisation would want to be seen as a low contributor towards community causes therefore charities would receive more corporate funding and the highest contributors would enjoy the most recognition.

I know that at C5 Alliance we offer a five-star level of commitment to the community. We make a large annual contribution to society and support many local charities and projects that benefit Islanders.

We have a commitment to ‘digitally enable’, and have worked with Jersey Hospice, Jersey Alzheimer’s Association and Jersey Women’s Refuge to develop infrastructure and skills to build their operations more effectively. We believe that this technology enablement has contributed much more than a simple financial contribution.

We support local charities such as Jersey Hospice, Mind Jersey, Mind Guernsey and Macmillan Jersey, and are the proud lead sponsors of the annual Macmillan Jersey Greatest Coffee Morning.

Working with Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey has empowered our team to get involved in fundraising sports and social activities to assist Macmillan in their development. Last year we took part in the Macmillan Rowathon, Golf Day and ‘Back to The 80’s’ 30th Anniversary Celebration. This charitable partnership of support and engagement for our team has helped the charity grow on the Island and create a genuinely positive impact for Channel Islanders year on year.

Our team’s commitment to be original in their thinking has also seen the development of an internal Employee CSR Fund whereby any team member can pitch a charitable idea or concept for C5 to provide a £500 donation. Last year also saw an inter-departmental team enter the Jersey Tackle Africa tournament in which brave souls take to the pitch to play 12 hours of football in support young people affected by HIV in Africa. At C5 Alliance, CSR is not what we do, it is who we are.

Will it take a graded system for more companies to actively contribute to society or is it something businesses should feel strongly enough about without this sort of incentive?