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Social responsibility: what it is and how brands can get started

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small-business-economy

While your business is hard at work bringing in the dough, how would you like it to leave a lasting legacy as well?

That’s the potential power of corporate social responsibility—or the model of engaging in practices that make a positive impact on society and the environment.

While donating money is a common method of exercising corporate social responsibility, it isn’t the only way of making a difference. Read on to learn some reasons for developing a more socially responsible brand, and some strategies for doing so.

Why should a brand be socially responsible?

Build a loyal customer base

In the past, consumers may have prioritized shopping with brands that offered great value for money and convenience. But times are changing.

Now, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor in consumers’ minds when they decide which brand to spend their money with.

According to a study by multinational technology company IBM, over 72% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for brands that are sustainable and/or environmentally responsible.

This has two implications:

  1. If your brand is socially responsible, then you may be able to grow a loyal following of customers who appreciate how you champion certain causes, apart from just trying to earn profits; and
  2. Such consumers may be willing to spend more with your brand as well, which can in turn increase your bottom line.

Appeal to younger, more socially aware audiences

During a study conducted by global purpose practice Porter Nelli/Cone, 88% of Generation Z individuals surveyed shared that they care about social and environmental issues. In fact, 90% of them believe that companies must act to help with these issues.

In other words, if your brand conducts socially responsible practices, and is seen to be doing so, then you may gain more of such socially aware consumers as customers.

Given their younger ages, such customers also have potentially a longer runway with your brand.

This means that if you maintain your corporate social responsibility efforts, you just might be able to keep these customers shopping with you for years to come.

Make the world a better place

Brands with established corporate social responsibility programs can sometimes be seen with suspicion.

After all, it’s all too possible that you’ve taken up certain causes because you want to be seen as a “hero brand.” But behind the scenes, you’re actually in it for the money. You don’t genuinely care for the causes you say you support.

Well, let’s not be too discouraged by such cynical thinking. Chances are that you have some causes that you strongly care about—whether for the marginalized, the needy or even for the environment.

And as someone who owns a business, what’s stopping you from trying to make the world a better place by devoting your business’ resources and earnings to good causes?

4 ways of exercising corporate social responsibility

1. Make donations to a local charity

Charities are hard at work making a difference to their chosen causes—but as non-profit organizations, they may need extra funds to keep their operations going.

So if you resonate with the efforts of certain charities, you can donate a portion of your revenue to help them continue with their work.

Last year, children’s entertainment franchise company The Pokémon Company International donated a total of $200,000 to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Black Lives Matter.

“Here at The Pokémon Company International, we believe in friendship, inclusivity, and equity,” the company declared in a Twitter statement about the donation.

“These are values that anchor the Pokémon brand. There is no place for oppression within our community.”

Source: Twitter

The tweet was well-received by Pokémon fans, garnering over 250,000 likes and 60,000 retweets.

4. Volunteer in the community

Apart from donating money to a charity, what about donating your time?

This can be an especially meaningful practice. Because while it’s easy to write a check, sometimes what a charity needs is not more money, but an extra pair of hands to help with their work.

Volunteering your time—and encouraging your employees to do so—can also help open your eyes to what’s happening on the ground, and help you make more informed decisions on how to maximize the effectiveness of your brand’s CSR program.

Since 2011, multinational technology company Apple has supported employees’ efforts to volunteer with and donate to organizations whose causes they care about.

For every hour that an employee volunteers with an organization, or for every dollar that an employee donates to one, Apple will make a monetary donation to that same organization.

Called Apple’s Giving program, this program has helped funnel almost $600 million in donations, including more than 1.6 million volunteer hours, to more than 34,000 organizations as of December 2020.

Source: Apple

3. Treat your employees well

As the faces of your brand, your employees can be your greatest allies. Therefore, be sure to treat them as such.

This means giving all employees—even the ones at the lowest levels of your organization—decent, livable wages and benefits. All these may seem like an expense to your company, but they can go a long way in keeping your employees happy and turnover rates low.

For example, big-box retailer Costco is well-known for providing generous employee benefits.

It would pay its United States store workers at least $15 per hour, which is more than double the United States’ minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. (In fact, Costco has recently raised its internal minimum wage to $16 per hour.)

What’s more, as the COVID-19 pandemic began rearing its head last March, the brand also paid its employees an extra $2 per hour to help them tide over potential financial difficulties.

Thanks to such generosity, Costco has been regularly recognized for its employment practices, such as being ranked 20th in Forbes’ 2020 list of World’s Best Employers.

4. Speak up during seasonal events you believe in

Every March 8, International Women’s Day is celebrated to highlight the achievements of women and call for greater gender equality in society.

So leading up to this day, it isn’t uncommon to see brands posting social media graphics that declare their commitment to a more gender-equal world.

Here’s one from insurance company AXA Mansard, for example:

Source: AXA Mansard

Whether for International Women’s Day or for other seasonal events that raise awareness of social issues, you can also post similar graphics online to express your support.

Graphic design platforms such as PosterMyWall offer social media templates that make creating and sharing such graphics online easy, even if you aren’t well-versed in design.

Exercising corporate social responsibility is the way to go

For sure, most businesses are started with the aim of generating profits. But there is plenty of room for them to do good while they’re at it.

Contrary to popular belief, exercising corporate social responsibility need not be an unjustified strain on your business’ finances. In fact, doing so may just help boost your revenue as you gain a following from more socially aware consumers.

There are many ways for a brand to exercise corporate social responsibility too, from contributing donations to volunteering, and to expressing your stand on social issues. Even taking care to treat your employees well can make a big difference!

Pick your preferred methods of giving back to the community, and then start taking action to prove that you genuinely believe in the causes that you’ve aligned your brand with.

In these current times, how will your brand practice corporate social responsibility?

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Finance

Afghanistan: 500,000 jobs lost since Taliban takeover

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More than half a million people have lost or been pushed out of their jobs in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday.

In a warning that the economy has been “paralyzed” since the de facto authorities took control last August, ILO said that there have been huge losses in jobs and working hours.

Women have been hit especially hard.

By the middle of this year, it’s expected that job losses will increase to nearly 700,000 – with direst predictions topping 900,000 – as a result of the crisis in Afghanistan and “restrictions on women’s participation in the workplace”.

Gender gap

Women’s employment levels are already extremely low by global standards, but ILO said that they are estimated to have decreased by 16 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, and they could fall by between 21 per cent and 28 per cent by mid-2022.

“The situation in Afghanistan is critical and immediate support for stabilization and recovery is required,” said Ramin Behzad, Senior Coordinator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for Afghanistan. “While the priority is to meet immediate humanitarian needs, lasting and inclusive recovery will depend on people and communities having access to decent employment, livelihoods and basic services.”

Hundreds of thousands of job losses have been seen in several key sectors which have been “devastated” since the takeover, ILO said.

These include agriculture and the civil service, where workers have either been let go or left unpaid. In construction, the sector’s 538,000 workers – of which 99 per cent are men – have suffered too, as major infrastructure projects have stalled.

Forces sapped

The Taliban takeover has also led to “hundreds of thousands” of Afghan security force members losing their job, said ILO, noting that teachers and health workers have been deeply impacted by the lack of cash in the economy, amid falling international donor support.

As the crisis continues to unfold, ILO explained that the Taliban capture of Kabul on 15 August, threatened hard-fought development gains achieved over the past two decades.

Domestic markets have been “widely disrupted”, the UN agency said, while productive economic activity has dropped, which has in turn driven up production costs.

At the same time, because Afghanistan’s reported $9.5 billion in assets have been frozen, “foreign aid, trade and investment…have been severely impacted”, ILO continued, pointing to cash shortages and restrictions on bank withdrawals, causing misery for businesses, workers and households.

Kids pay price

The lack of work also threatens to worsen child labour levels in Afghanistan, where only 40 per cent of children aged five to 17 years old attend school.

In absolute numbers, ILO noted that there are more than 770,000 boys and about 300,000 girls involved in child labour.

The problem is worst in rural areas – where 9.9 per cent, or 839,000 children –  are much more likely to be in child labour compared to those in urban areas (2.9 per cent or 80,000).

To support the Afghan people this year, the UN’s top priorities are to provide lifesaving assistance, sustain essential services and preserve social investments and community-level systems which are essential to meeting basic human needs.

In support of this strategy, the ILO has pledged to work with employers and trade unions to promote productive employment and decent work.

The organisation’s focus is in four key areas: emergency employment services, employment-intensive investment, enterprise promotion and skills development, while respecting labour rights, gender equality, social dialogue, social protection,elimination of child labour and disability inclusion.

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Finance

Construction PPE: What and when to use

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Personal protective equipment is essential for construction sites. Every workplace has hazards – from offices to classrooms. However, a construction site has far more hazards than most, and extra caution must be applied. PPE can help keep everyone safe and secure, even when close to a hazard factor. Your employer should provide high-quality PPE to everyone on site. When selecting equipment, use a construction PPE supplier that is CE marked.

How to use PPE

Personal protective equipment is designed to protect you from potential hazards. For example, face masks and eye goggles are worn around toxic chemicals or contaminated air. PPE must fit correctly to be as efficient and safe as possible. A loose-fitting face mask could allow dust particles to squeeze through the gaps. Or ill-fitting thermal trousers could get caught/snag on edges or trail along the ground and cause the worker to fall over. Your PPE needs to be in good condition as well – If there are holes, rips and signs of wear on your PPE, it should be immediately replaced. It is your employer’s responsibility to provide adequate PPE.

PPE is a last resort

PPE is not the only safety measure that needs to be taken. Your employer should reduce the risks on site where possible. For example, a hazardous area should be signposted, and every employee should be trained properly. Every employee should go through health and safety training alongside frequent refresher courses. All employees should be trained in using the machinery on site before they begin operating it. PPE cannot protect someone who does not know how to act safely on site.

What types of PPE are used on-site?

Protective gloves should be worn when handling heavy machinery and sharp tools. The gloves need to allow enough mobility and flexibility so the individual can continue to work. Gloves can also help you grip heavy items and protect you from cold winter conditions.

A tool lanyard is useful for when you are working at a height. The lanyard connects to your wrist so you can carry lightweight tools. For heavier tools, you can use a stronger tether point, like your waist.

High – visibility clothing should be mandatory when working, especially at night. Everyone should wear high visibility clothing on-site, so they are noticeable by moving vehicles. Depending on the weather, you could go for a vest or thick coat.

Stay safe and wear personal protective equipment on construction sites.

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Finance

Croatia Has Potential to Become a Blue Economy Champion in the EU

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Croatia’s coast and sea are key national assets that contribute significantly to the country’s economy and give Croatia a competitive edge as an attractive tourism destination. The tourism sector alone contributed with 20 percent to Croatia’s GDP. Yet, as a semi-enclosed sea, the Adriatic is becoming increasingly vulnerable to impacts from economic activities, including a rapidly growing environmental footprint from the tourism industry. Climate change is likely to further exacerbate these effects.

To help Croatia foster sustainable and green economic growth while addressing environmental and climate impacts and protect its coastal and marine natural capital, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of the Republic of Croatia and the World Bank, convened leading national and international development and environment experts and stakeholders in a virtual workshop – Investing in a Sustainable Blue Economy in Croatia. The event contributed to strengthening the national dialogue on the Blue Economy and provided an added focus for considering Croatia’s coastal and marine natural capital in the country’s Blue Economy and Green Growth Development Strategy, as well in its climate adaptation and mitigation responses.  

“Aware of the environmental pressure that tourism, with its unquestionable benefits for the economy, put on on water and the sea as key components of the environment, we are grateful to the World Bank for encouraging the discussion on the importance of the blue economy for Croatia,  the opportunities for funding of certain segments of the blue economy and possible further steps. To reduce this pressure, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development is implementing a number of water supply and sanitation projects. So far, within the Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020 Operational Programme, a total of 60 water supply and sanitation projects worth HRK 25.78 billion including VAT have been financed, of which eligible costs amount to HRK 20.5 billion, while EU funds amount to HRK 14.36 billion. A significant part of these funds relates to projects in the Adriatic part of Croatia, taking into account the sustainability of Croatian tourism,” highlighted Elizabeta Kos Director, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Croatia, Directorate for Water Management and Sea Protection.

A Blue Economy model involves sustainable use of maritime resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the natural capital of the oceans, seas, and coasts. The Blue Economy model is at the forefront of the sustainability agenda globally and part of the European Green Deal (EGD), aimed at helping European Union members meet their economic needs while addressing their sustainability goals, including climate change adaptation.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting the Government of Croatia’s efforts to protect the country’s natural capital, address climate vulnerabilities, and reduce the energy intensity of the economy,” said Jehan Arulpragasam, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia. Croatia has the potential to become a Blue Economy champion in the EU, where it has the highest relative contribution of the blue economy to the national gross value added and employment, and the World Bank stands ready to support Croatia with its global knowledge to achieve this goal.”

To assess the challenges Croatia faces, a recent World Bank report on the cost of environmental degradation (CoED) in Croatia estimates economic and social costs of environmental degradation of Croatia’s marine and coastal assets due to loss of ecosystem services, inadequate waste and wastewater management, marine litter, air pollution, and the environmental impacts of tourism. For example, the loss of ecosystem services, which provide vital services and are the foundation for economic growth, including for the tourism industry, is estimated at EUR 90 million annually. Marine litter causes additional costs to port operations estimated at EUR 20 million or more annually, while insufficient treatment of waste and water pollution from the tourism sector is estimated to cost EUR 55 million per year.

“Oceans, seas, and coasts offer great opportunities for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in fisheries, aquaculture, mariculture, coastal tourism, marine biotechnology, and renewable energy,” noted Kseniya Lvovsky, Practice Manager, World Bank Environment, Natural Resources, and Blue Economy for Europe and Central Asia. “They also play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and in enhancing climate resilience of coastal areas. Sustainable management of marine and coastal resources requires collaboration across industries, public and private sectors, and nations.”

The virtual workshop gathered key stakeholders from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction And State Assets, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Tourism and Sport and  other government agencies, institutes, development partners, the private sector, civil society, and leading national and international development and environment experts.

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