January 09, 2019

Social Responsibility or Profit?

Happy New Year! Did you have a relaxing Christmas filled to the brim with good cheer, good food, plenty of booze and crap you didn’t really want but were outwardly thankful for anyway? Good.

Us too.

So we’re back and ready to smash it but over Christmas, we watched a movie that got us thinking about our business.

If you’ve never seen Serpico, it’s a 1973 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring a young and utterly brilliant Al Pacino. He received an Oscar nomination for his role as an honest NYPD cop who went deep undercover to expose a hidden world of widespread, systematic and institutional corruption, violence and bribery within the New York City Police Department.

It’s based on the true story of Frank Serpico, a real-life NYPD officer who after royally blowing the whistle on his colleagues and superiors was threatened and shot and lived in Switzerland, The Netherlands and Italy, where he currently resides. He’s in his early 80s and he did the right thing knowing it would cost him his career, his reputation and potentially his life.

Don’t worry, we’re not about to blow the whistle on anyone. What it did was get us thinking about the dichotomy between the relentless pursuit of profit and our responsibility as a business to think about others in a clearer, more defined way.

An odd link-up perhaps, but stay with us and we’ll try and explain.


Is CSR Any More Than A Marketing Buzzword?


Corporate and Social Responsibility (sometimes called Corporate Morality) is broadly defined as ‘assessing and taking responsibility for a company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare’, and here’s the clincher…

It can involve a business ‘incurring short-term costs that do not provide an immediate financial benefit to the company. But instead promote positive social and environmental change.’

But can you be a ‘do-gooder’ and make money at the same time?

The simple answer is yes, and as we said, it’s something that we’ve not only become aware of, but have decided to do something about. Let’s embrace we came to the party late rather than not show up at all.

In his seminal work Capitalism & Freedom, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman bluntly stated that ‘the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’ and while that may be true on some level, we think it’s an outdated concept in the world of choice we live in.

Decisions to engage with businesses, whether they provide products like supermarkets or services like recruitment companies, are no longer ‘yes or no’. Now it’s ‘this or that’ and with so much consumer choice, how do businesses stand out over the noise?

Why do you go to Tesco and not Sainsbury’s? Why do you buy Ford over Nissan? Why do you bank with NatWest and not Halifax?

Much of today’s consumer choices are based around cost but more and more, consumers (and employees) are basing decisions on the brand values of a business.

In a recent study by Nielsen, ‘55% of global online consumers [30,000 polled] across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.’

Another study by PWC said that ‘86% of millennial employees would consider leaving a company if its CSR values no longer matched their own.’

Amy Fenton, Global Leader of Public Development & Sustainability at Nielsen went one step further; ‘Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions. This behaviour is on the rise and it provides opportunities for meaningful impact in our communities, in addition to helping to grow share for brands.’


So What Are We Doing About It?


Look, we’re not Coca-Cola and we can’t throw $500m at the lack of fresh drinking water in Africa. Nor are we Uber who have vowed to have every car on their London app be fully electric by 2025. Sadly for the guys in the office, we’re not Ben & Jerry’s either, who serve nothing but fair-trade, GM-free ingredients and have developed a dairy farm sustainability programme in their home state of Vermont.

We’re a small but feisty recruitment company in Watford but we don’t have to be a hundred-billion-dollar behemoth to make a difference*.

*We wouldn’t mind being one…

There are plenty of ways a small business like ours can implement a CSR programme and far from feeling overwhelmed, we’re constantly embracing new ways of doing things and that’s not just reserved for the way we do business.

We don’t use our printers unless we absolutely have to. We recycle all our hardware and we encourage our staff to go out into the community and contribute in some way. We have vowed to match fundraising totals our guys hit by running the marathon or skydiving or making tea and cakes for the Macmillan Coffee Morning and one of our guys even takes the office recycling home to put in his green bin on a Friday afternoon.

These things may seem inconsequential to the Coca-Colas of this world but to us, it means we’re making a difference, however small.

And that’s what the Liquid ethos is all about – making a positive difference. We make a positive difference to the lives of the clients and candidates we come across on a daily basis and we try and make a positive difference to the world around us.

It’s the least we can do because by being socially responsible, it means we can also run our business exactly how we want to.

Catch you soon.

The Liquid Team