Blog: CSR – Not just a tick in the box

Corporate social responsibility is easy to dismiss as one of those bureaucratic boxes that need ticked, but if you spend some time talking to your employees, you will find that the majority have a passionate concern for something outside of work, writes Alastair Wallace, senior partner at Scottish construction and property consultancy Thomas & Adamson.

Alastair Wallace

It’s very easy for big businesses to forget about the communities they are in, so by encouraging staff to commit time to fundraising or seeking help for causes, gives both them and the company a sense of value. Not to mention the benefits it brings to the individuals in the workforce by helping them potentially learn new skills, connect with others and being mindful of others.

CSR is not all about maximising profit or investing in companies with a good CSR performance. Non-financial reporting can play a hugely important role from a social, and indeed, community point of view. In Thomas and Adamson’s case, we’ve supported many causes through sponsorship deals, like our recent one with a local literary fayre, Literally@Newbattle. The festival was designed to engage with people who are under-represented in the literature and literary art sector, making it available to the local community and help them to discover a passion for reading.

We actively encourage our staff and partners to embrace CSR activity, and support them by providing appropriate time off to fulfil their charitable commitments – from charity walks, cycles and food bank drives, to name a few. Recently our Edinburgh team took part in a ‘DIY SOS’ type charity day for a Dementia Care Home in Craigmillar. The team spent the day cutting grass, pruning and weeding in the care home garden which is being renovated to provide a dementia-friendly space for the patients to enjoy. This is a project that means a lot to the team involved, and we are proud of their commitment and the energy they gave.

On a personal level I am involved in my local golf club, Milnathort, and recently was successful in helping the club secure funding from the National Lottery Awards to improve its facilities for young people in the area.

Golf is often seen as a sport that is exclusively for wealthy people, and I’m passionate about continuing to make it more inclusive. This funding will allow that to happen, and the club is able to offer all the young people in the catchment area the chance to be involved in a sport that will get them outdoors and be active, but also to learn the etiquette and good manners that go hand in hand with golf and will stay with them through life.

A lot of initiatives focus on disadvantaged groups, but one thing that doesn’t discriminate between wealth or poverty is illness. Charitable causes can bring staff together for one purpose, and in turn can help raise a lot of money for extremely worthwhile causes. We have decided to support the Daisy Garland Trust this year; a charity close to our hearts that helps families affected by drug resistant epilepsy.

CSR shouldn’t just be about giving money to charity. Yes, it’s great to be in a position to support a local cause, but in my opinion, it should be woven into a company’s values and in turn, help the business to engage its staff. It helps to motivate them, increase their morale and it’s a good all-rounder for productivity. Furthermore, it creates a positive environment when we all work together to contribute to the greater good. As Aristotle once said: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

Initiatives like these mean that as a company, we are giving something back to the world that we exist in. It means something to us, and our staff. CSR doesn’t have to just be a box to tick, it can be something that touches the lives of people you spend every day with.