Guest blog by Coro Strandberg, Strandberg Consulting
A series on CSR as a poverty reduction strategy & social innovation tool
Companies operate with and in many communities. Last post I talked about employee relations, a company’s internal community. This stop on the Social Sustainability Roadmap focuses on the external community. Businesses that take an active interest in community well-being can generate positive results both for the business and for the community. Good corporate citizens attract support, loyalty and good will. Progressive socially sustainable companies design their programs to prevent or solve problems, foster social partnerships and generally contribute to the community quality of life.
Your community-relations priorities will depend on your company’s local circumstances and its business strategy, competencies and assets. In my next post I share my thoughts on the traditional practice area of community giving or community investment. This post highlights two lesser known areas of community relations practice: accessibility and social hiring.
As our population ages, we’re bound to see more disabilities amongst employees and customers. These could be anything that cause a person to have difficulty with daily living activities such as a physical or mental condition or a health problem.
First, it’s important to ensure your business is physically accessible. Although this may mean improvements beyond the minimum building code requirements, your customers and employees will demonstrate their appreciation through their business and loyalty.
Think about your products too. Are they fully accessible? You may want to investigate “universal design principles” – a design approach to products and environments to make them usable and effective for everyone. Some businesses become “disability confident,” by adopting and implementing commitments to advance social inclusion for people with disabilities.
Accessible businesses are more caring and welcoming for all people. And there’s a bottom-line benefit too. Given technology advances and population demographics, people with disabilities are living longer and becoming a greater presence in the marketplace. Companies that capitalize on this trend with accessible premises, products and communications will secure future market opportunities and see their business grow.
Here’s a concrete way for a company to reduce poverty and promote economic and social inclusion. Look for ways to hire people who face labour market barriers. These barriers could be a physical, mental or developmental disability. They could be mismatched or limited skills, lack of work experience, age, culture or language. Initially, additional support may be necessary since people with employment barriers often have been out of the workforce for a number of years.
“Social hiring” is an employer’s commitment to recruit employees with employment barriers. For example, BC-based Key Food Equipment Services, a repairer of commercial food equipment in western Canada, hired a person with a developmental disability who started filing customer invoices and moved up to inventory management.
By leveraging a traditional business function such as employment, businesses can enhance social inclusion and help reduce local poverty. By focusing on accessibility and becoming “disability confident,” businesses can help people with disabilities to live satisfying lives.
For more information see: Community Relations on the Social Sustainability Roadmap.