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Talking responsible business

Published: 
Thursday, June 21, 2018

Over the years, corporate responsibility has evolved from activities driven by regulatory compliance and philanthropy, to a much more strategic focus on the creation of shared societal and business value. This evolution has also seen the focus of responsible business programmes widen to include more than just community initiatives.

For instance, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the world’s leading corporate responsibility standard, identifies 33 economic, environmental and social issues, in addition to issues in the areas of ethics and integrity, corporate governance and stakeholder engagement.

The evolution of corporate responsibility has also placed increasing emphasis on the opportunities for businesses to benefit by acting in a responsible manner: doing well while doing good.

In line with this, on the occasion of World Environment Day, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s Responsible Business Committee (previously known as the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee), presented a Business Insights session entitled Caring for your Bottom Line—The Business Case for Corporate Responsibility. This event reflected the committee’s mission “to build a platform for capacity building and advocacy that enables every business to be an active partner in helping to solve T&T’s socio-economic and environmental challenges”.

To kick off the event, Kyle Santos, chairman of the responsible business committee and CSR consultant, took the audience on a myth-busting journey, tackling common misconceptions such as “CSR and philanthropy are one and the same”, “CSR is a cost to business”, “a company’s motives must be purely altruistic” and “CSR isn’t relevant in T&T or to small business”.

He also highlighted findings from his own research, which indicated that most people want to work for responsible businesses, but less than half are satisfied with their company’s social or environmental efforts.

Santo was followed by Melanie Richards, founder of CSR Solutions Ltd, who presented in-depth regional case studies illustrating how businesses can take action in their communities, protect their local

environment, be responsible employers and create positive impacts up and down their value chains, creating tangible business benefits all the while.

Businesspeople from three very diverse fields offered practical lessons based on their experiences.

Nicole Galt, executive vice president of human resources at Trinidad Systems Ltd, spoke about the company’s initiatives with its employees and communities which, despite the great volume, remain unknown to many outside of the business.

“It is in giving that we receive,” Galt said. “We do not give expecting to receive; however, it always comes back in some form or fashion. Where a door closes, a window opens.”

Jeunesse Pouchet, general manager of The Youthful Vegan, Trinidad’s first 100% vegan shop and café, spoke of the challenges her small business faces in order to stay true to its core principles and values.

Limiting the cafe’s environmental footprint, she noted, while serving delicious healthy food at an affordable price, requires sacrifice and compromise.

Yet, this enables The Youthful Vegan to create an authentic experience that its customers and staff love. It also placed them well ahead of the game when a large customer changed its policy, requiring all meals to be delivered in environmentally friendly packaging.

Chief executive officer of Massy Stores, Derek Winford, opened up about the chain’s bold decision to introduce a charge for bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste. He spoke of the positive and negative feedback they continue to receive, while making it clear that Massy Stores is committed to reducing its impact on the environment.

This is why Massy Stores’ environmental initiatives include efficient building design, the use of energy-efficient LED lighting and ozone-friendly refrigerant gases, and their continued support of organisations like PlastiKeep and NourishTT.

A robust panel discussion followed the company presentations, giving the audience the chance to get deeper insights. A common thread was the importance of getting staff engaged in responsible business activities, by offering them a variety of ways in which to take part.

Melanie Richards highlighted that, while there are many responsible things companies can do, it would be wrong to limit such activities to generic “quick wins”. Instead, she suggested that companies understand what the most relevant issues are for their business, and focus their efforts on the areas in which they can create the greatest positive impact.

The T&T Chamber hosted this session as part of its wider effort to improve local standards of doing business. Corporate responsibility—or responsible business—has the potential to create shared positive social and business value, simultaneously strengthening our society, environment and economy.

Leading international businesses have already taken up this mantle. As our local companies look outward for export markets, they need to ensure that they have their own house in order and can demonstrate how they will create share value in their target market.

The responsible business committee is a group of volunteers from leading local companies who are passionate about responsible business.

The committee’s mission is to build a platform for capacity building and advocacy that enables every business to be an active partner in helping to solve T&T’s socio-economic and environmental challenges.

T&T Chamber of
Industry and Commerce

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