Ivan Ivanov is COO of 60K.
Towards the end of 2013 visitors to 60K’s offices in Sofia, Bulgaria, were greeted not by the formal, blandness they might have expected from a business process outsourcer, but by a colourful Christmas bazaar selling cards and decorations, bags, books, DVDs, calendars, and even cakes and cookies.
The four-day bazaar aimed to raise funds for several local charities: the Dechitsa Foundation which runs a local orphanage, the Animal Rescue Sofia Foundation which is raising funds to buy a new home for stray dogs, a foundation which supports prematurely born children in Bulgaria, a daycare centre for people with mental disorders, and the local House for Hearing-Impaired Children.
In total the company’s employees donated 3583.38 leva (£1501.64). This was the culmination of a year in which 60K, a company formed in 2008 and which has grown to 600 agents delivering customer service for companies such as Thomas Cook, Zumba, Seatwave and Service 800, was closely involved in supporting many local charities.
Why have we done this? Why should a company like 60K invest so much time and money in supporting the local community? We believe there are seven reasons why we – and indeed every business regardless of size, location or sector – ought to become more socially responsible.
1) Keep regulators at bay
For many organisations the initial impetus towards social responsibility is the desire to keep regulators at bay. Whether it is financial services organisations diverting traders’ bonuses to charitable donations, manufacturers of unhealthy food and drink products funding local children’s’ sports clubs, or extractive companies building schools and hospitals in areas where they mine and drill, there is no shortage of companies that see social responsibility initiatives as a way to stave off the threat of regulation.
In many ways it is a sensible corporate strategy. It is after all far better to choose the timing, scale and nature of your interventions than to have them imposed upon you. Equally, this plays an important social role. The charity donations, sports funding and public buildings provided by corporates are by and large gratefully received by the people who benefit from them. However, there are many other reasons for a company to want to become more socially responsible.
2) Motivate employees
Anyone who saw how excited our employees became about the Christmas bazaar would have seen at first hand the potential for social responsibility to build employee engagement and motivation. Indeed, a 2010 Hewitt & Associates study looked at 230 workplaces and found that the more a company actively pursues worthy environmental and social efforts, the more engaged its employees are.
Further evidence of this link came from The Society for Human Resources Management which found that employee morale is 55% better at companies with strong sustainability programmes than at those with poor sustainability programmes. Add to this the fact that companies with highly engaged employees have three times the operating margin (Towers and Watson) and four times the earnings per share (Gallup) of companies with low engagement, and the case for socially responsible investment soon becomes highly compelling.
3) Attract the top talent
According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers 88% of millennials – the new generation entering the workforce – , choose employers based on strong social responsibility values, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s values no longer met their expectations. For a business such as 60K which relies on the quality of our agents to deliver outstanding service to our customers it is essential to attract the very best young people, and so it is vital that we contribute to the community in which they live.
4) Innovate to succeed
Whether it is running a Christmas bazaar, taking orphans horse-riding, making traditional Spring charms, or any one of the many other socially responsible activities we at 60K have been involved in it has seen us taking a break from our routines, meeting new people and engaging in a fresh experience.
Many organisations find this can provide a real spur to innovation. It helps them think of fresh ways of working, or new markets for products, or even entirely new product lines. Think of how automotive manufacturers have unearthed the demand for electric and hybrid cars, or how clothing manufacturers are involving consumers in product design – try new activities with new people and the results can be surprising, and profitable.
5) Tap into the power of social media
The speed, reach and power of social media networks means that it takes just one person to notice the good work a company does and to be sufficiently impressed to post a link, tweet a photo, or update a blog, and within hours the story can have reached millions of people right across the globe.
According to the Reputation Institute’s 2011 “Pulse Survey,” CSR is responsible for more than 40% of a company’s reputation, and the speed of digital media means that is more important than ever before.
6) Give consumers what they want
There is now an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that consumers are interested in more than just whether or not you have the best products at the lowest prices. To give just one example of these statistics, the Cone Communications 2013 Annual Social Responsibility Study revealed that 93% of people want to see more of the products and services they use support worthy social/environmental issues.
It also revealed that 31% of global consumers believe businesses should change the way they operate to align with social and environment needs and 90% of them want companies to go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly and address issues.
The implication is clear: behaving ethical can help a business boost sales and profits. This is not only the case with consumer-facing companies. Those that sell to businesses increasingly need to demonstrate that they act to prospect the environment, to protect their employees, and to contribute to society.
7) It is morally the right thing to do
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, social responsibility is simply the right thing to do. We work hard to earn money, but we also know we are an integral part of our local community and so it is only right that we give back to it what we can.
So last summer volunteers from 60K gathered together with children from the Dechitsa Foundation in a Sofia park for a day of badminton, frisbee and ball games. All involved made a real effort to create a special day for the children, and all left buzzing at the smiles they had put on those children’s faces.
On another occasion employees from 60K surprised Dechitsa children with a trip to the horse ranch in Borisova Gradina. The children loved feeding the animals, petting them, riding them, and just being their friends for a couple of hours. It was a beautiful experience that will be happily remembered by all those involved for many years.
Throughout the year there were many more socially responsible activities at 60K which not only helped those in our local community but also gave us a great amount of joy. We know there will be many more to come in 2014 and in the years ahead, simply because we recognise that good business truly is good business.