Sustainable management starts with the community bank

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Hobart mall, retail shops (Tom Wakefield)

By Graduate Consultant, Stuart Roberts

Unlike many of my peers, subjects on ethics and corporate social responsibility really struck a chord with me at university.

While others would groan with boredom, I connected with everything from the classic works of Plato and Socrates to the everyday ethical challenges of modern business.

Moving from university into the world of business, a strong ethical grounding has held me in good stead for a career in public relations.

Although I may have considered myself to be well versed in the art of ethical decision making by the time I graduated, the practical lessons I have learnt in the past 18 months have out-stripped any advanced theory I picked up at uni.

In terms of assisting clients in making the best possible decision for all involved, there is one lesson that defines our position as a business “tell the truth”.

It’s simple, if you’ve made a mistake, own it.

No matter how rock-solid your cover strategy may be, the risk of revelation will haunt you, and the potential knock on effects once you’ve been uncovered could be catastrophic.

Through history, it is clear the revelation of lies, cover ups and backtracks never, ever goes well.

There’s the big ones of course; Watergate, Bill Clinton’s affair, Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, but a lack of transparency can destroy businesses and reputations at any level.

However, working through a crisis is not as simple as confessing your sins and getting on with business, a broader approach to corporate social responsibility is key to sustainable business management.

This is where I would introduce the concept of ‘donating to the community bank’, an idea we strongly advocate for at Font PR.

A business, particularly in Tasmania, is more than just the some of its parts. Just as the community invests in a business for various goods and services, it is also important for the business to demonstrate its value to the community.

Donations to the ‘community bank’ might include supporting local sports clubs, university scholarships, art competitions, charity fundraising campaigns or employment opportunities for low income and disadvantaged members of the community.

This is not about token donations, this about making your businesses an integral member of the community in which you operate.

A fantastic example of innovative corporate social responsibility is the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Although a little more extreme on the investment side, Westpac have not only committed to a service that quite literally saves lives, they have made their brand synonymous with heroes in our community.

And while Westpac’s helicopters might not give them a free pass to do whatever they want, it is clear their reputation shines far brighter than the likes of ANZ and NAB in Tasmania.

While there’s no denying doing positive work will improve your reputation, it can also be a long process waiting for word of mouth to carry news of your good deeds.

Just as you work hard to share the value of your goods and services, it is just as important to communicate your commitment to corporate social responsibility.

In other words, if you’re going to make an effort, make sure people know about it.

From my new-found experience it is clear, regular donations to the community bank, coupled with a strong communications strategy will be your best defence when the proverbial hits the fan.

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