Australian companies struggle with CSR

AUSTRALIAN ORGANISATIONS are taking a short-term approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and there is a strong lack of understanding about what constitutes CSR, a recent white paper has found

AUSTRALIAN ORGANISATIONS are taking a short-term approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and there is a strong lack of understanding about what constitutes CSR, a recent white paper has found.

Furthermore, Australian businesses, shareholders and financial markets don’t put enough weight on positive CSR, and effective CSR needs to based on the values of an organisation and its stakeholders, rather than driven by external regulation or legislation.

The white paper, published by Robert Half International, found that an organisation’s CSR policies should reflect the cultural and regulatory environment in which it is based, maintaining a minimum standard of principles, regardless of its country of operation.

“It is only when an organisation becomes serious about the time and money it is willing to spend on a long-term CSR plan, will it reap the rewards in terms of employee and stakeholder, as well as general public, buy-in,” said Nigel Barcham, managing director of Robert Half International.

The white paper, Australia and Overseas: Conducting Business on a Global Platform, is based on a round table of eight CFOs, COOs and CEOs from Australian companies.

It also found that in the current talent-short environment the accounting industry is experiencing, Australian businesses need to understand and manage the challenges faced by foreign workers.

“The opinion expressed by the round table participants is that, whilst overseas students are graduating from Australian universities with the requisite technical skills, not enough is being done to develop their language and communication skills,” Barcham said.

“Concentrating on these would give those graduates a better chance of employment within an Australian company, perhaps easing the pressure the skills shortage is placing on the industry.”

Diversity within an organisation has its benefits, however, for foreign workers to be as valuable as they can be to a business, Barcham said this requires a combination of technical expertise, language and cultural understanding on their part.

The white paper also explored the issue of offshoring, and acknowledged that Australian organisations have had mixed success with this in the past.

Companies that have been successful in owning assets overseas have focused upon a particular region or business opportunity rather than trying to enter a country as a whole.

When it comes to the international stage, round table participants said Australia punches above its weight, however, the country’s contribution to the global market isn’t properly recognised due to the limited size of Australian organisations compared to counterparts internationally.

Moving forward, the white paper found Australian businesses must respond to changes in the workforce.

Critical issues such as the ageing population as well as varying expectations and unprecedented value systems of Generations X and Y, mean organisations need to support their employees’ expectations in order to attract and retain talent.

Australia is running the risk of being an exporter of knowledge and talent, and if Australian business don’t begin to address these issues, the ability to find high quality employees will continue to be difficult in the future, it found.

The needs and desires of Generation Y need to be taken into account by all organisations. Focusing on CSR will become increasingly important to businesses in the coming years as they continue to market to this generation, who are already concerned about the implications their purchases and investments have on society.

“Drilling down into those aspects really concerning Australian businesses, addressing them and finding solutions is the only way Australia can grow and be respected on the international stage,”said Barcham.

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