Increasingly tenders for local authority contracts relating to health and social care, including those for home care, are asking questions about issues such as ethical trading, environmental policies, social value and corporate social responsibility.
Many providers are unsure as to what these terms mean and how they might apply to them, especially as a small domiciliary care provider. Gaining an understanding of these terms and having policies and procedures in place is increasingly important for the survival of small businesses. In this blog we discuss what is meant by corporate social responsibility and how home care businesses might demonstrate it to local authorities.
What is it?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a catchall term used to describe a number of choices, policies, procedures and behaviours which businesses adopt to demonstrate that they are socially accountable. This accountability is about how the provider demonstrates they are aware of the impact of their business to:
• Service Users.
• Those important to the Service Users.
• Local authorities.
• The public.
This accountability is not like that which providers owe to their regulators, such as to https://www.cqc.org.uk/, it is more a form of self-regulation in which the company makes choices about the things that are important to it and choices to implement policies and practices to achieve these.
Corporate social responsibility is usually considered as relating to four key topics:
• The environment.
• Ethical trading.
• Financial behaviours.
This element of CSR is all about being aware of and doing something about the impact the business has on the environment. This means that the business will consider and take action on issues such as:
• Reducing waste, e.g. by using less paper and recycling.
• Reducing energy use, e.g. by using energy efficient means of transport, lighting and heating.
• Offsetting the impact the business has on the environment, e.g. planting trees or donating to environmental causes.
• Buying locally where possible to reduce transportation of goods.
• Buying from green supply chains when this is possible.
All social care businesses have the ability to operate ethically. This is not just about being open and honest, although these are important, it includes such behaviours as:
• Fair recruitment practices and being alert to issues such as modern-day slavery.
• Treating staff fairly and honestly, e.g. providing substantive contracts where the work is available.
• Ensuring staff are cared for and not overworked.
• Charging Service Users fairly for the care they receive.
• Trading with other companies which also have SCR and ethical trading policies and credentials.
This is not just about being prudent and keeping good accounts, it is about the philosophy which drives a company. Companies which operate a CSR policy which takes account of financial issues ensure they:
• Try to offer jobs to local people and in so doing support the local economy.
• Pay a living wage, where this is possible.
• Pay suppliers, especially other small businesses, on time or ahead of time when possible.
Many small businesses cannot afford to make hefty donations to good causes either locally or nationally. Even small agencies can offer their expertise in supporting local charities or charitable events, they can advertise events and consider ideas such as allowing staff a limited amount of time away from work to volunteer for good causes.
Benefits of being corporately socially responsible
While some readers will think this blog is all about what they have to give as a provider, others will realise that there are real benefits which may accrue with CSR, these include:
• Creating a positive image of the company locally – important for both private and local authority clients.
• Improved staff recruitment and retention, this is especially true in small communities where staff talk about feeling valued and being treated well.
• Improved financial performance as waste is better managed and staff and managers make better decisions which consider the longer-term.
Notably many of the small providers we talk to feel they are not in a position to have a CSR policy nor to make a difference as an organisation - other than to the people they directly support. None of this is right. All providers no matter their size can make choices about the ways in which they operate and the sorts of business they choose to be.
Being CSR aware can be good for businesses especially where they can demonstrate these credentials when bidding for work. Creating a name for being fair and being active in the community and supporting good causes does raise the profile of any agency and will most certainly not do them any harm when individuals within that community or the local authority are considering where they will purchase their care from.
As a quality consultancy, Bettal cannot be socially responsible for you, but what we can do is provide solid policies and procedures, including on topics such as ethical trading, the environment, social value and corporate social responsibility. This in turn frees up time for you to concentrate on the things that matter to you and which you chose to demonstrate your accountability in.
To find out how Bettal’s can help your business with our CQC-compliant quality management system, browse our website, or get in touch:
Peter Ellis MA MSc BSc(Hons) RN
Bettal Quality Consultancy