I’ve just come out of a strategy meeting with our global team and consolidated a number of conversations I’ve been having recently with our business partners, and leadership coaches, from around the world.
Corporate Social Responsibility is described as the third element of the ‘triple bottom line’: corporate profitability; the people element and the environmental (or ‘planet’) account. The third of these three ‘P’s was first created by a British environmentalist, John Elkington, in the mid-1990’s and the argument goes that only by taking into account these three elements is the full ‘cost’ (by which he meant more than just the financial element) of doing business.
In the Forton Group’s leadership model, we argue that leaders – and their organisations – have a social impact, simply by existing. We can’t help but have an impact on the wider world – whether visible or invisible. Good leadership multiplies benefits – so actually there’s a financial, people and social benefit of being a great leader. For example, this shows up in our model as –
- Personal success: the financial advantages of being a good leader (putting bread on the table); the family benefits; the benefits to our personal society – whether that’s coaching the school football team, contributing to our religious community, or volunteering for a charity.
- Team success: the multiplier effect of people working alongside other successful co-workers and the shared benefits that brings; the pleasure of working alongside fellow professionals – even when their expertise is in a slightly different field to our own; and the dynamism of working as a team for a social cause.
A few years ago I supported a number of teams from a multi-national telecoms company on one of their team-building away-days. We researched a number of opportunities that were on offer from charities. We knew the client wanted something that was outdoors, physical and made a positive difference to the environment. 40 people ended up re-laying a path winding up the hillside in the beautiful ‘Lake District’ of north-west England.
The views from the hillside were stunning, and the aim was to make this path accessible to wheelchair users; this spec required a particular gradient, path width and stability of the surface. Over two days people moved barrow-loads of materials further and further up the hill as the rain poured down; they set themselves mini-goals of so many yards to achieve by late afternoon. All the while they worked, people were also using the path and stopping to chat.
One couple stopped to tell the workers how important that path was to them; the husband was partially disabled by MS, which has periods of remission and other times when he needed to use a wheelchair. He talked about how much that view meant to him, and how he could now look forward to using the path, regardless of his condition. The profound impact on the volunteer team was evident in the pleasure and pride in their faces.
We see all too often the toxic cost of poor leadership, so perhaps now is the time to celebrate the positive impact of the good.
So what’s the action the Forton Group is going to take to promote social responsibility? Actually, we realised just how much we do – and we discovered that our partners and individual coaches are already giving so much back to the community. So much unsung work is happening, so our first step will be to consolidate that information and promote what we do through our corporate website – at the same time as encouraging others to find similar outlets for their generous efforts.