My Personal Journey with Corporate Responsibility

Here, Barry Aldridge MCIM - Head of Marketing for Derby-based pneumatics and hydraulics manufacturer Tidyco; discusses a personal journey with corporate responsibility.

My sister brought me a wonderful Christmas present which came in the form of a book. I excitedly opened the gift to reveal Corporate Responsibility Coalitions by David Grayson and Jane Nelson. Hurriedly flicking through the contents, I explained to my sister that the publication acted as a deeper analysis of what I have been striving to achieve throughout the vast majority of my career.

Reading through the chapters has cemented academic understanding regarding the strategic activity that I have been so passionately involved with for so many years.

I will quote from the book throughout this discussion piece. For those interested in the subject matters of corporate identity, branding and organisational commitment towards business ethics; it really does make for a fascinating read.

Like many of us, I find Christmas to be a time of personal reflection. As I look back upon what has been an interstellar year regarding both personal career development as well as corporate progression for Tidyco; I cannot help but feel incredibly proud of my achievements. This particular article is very much a continuation of the recently published Brand Story.

Previous written work has discussed shared core values, stakeholder engagement points, marketing foundations, cyber defence, digital expansion to a glocal market, motivational objectives as well as collaboration. Supply chain transparency, SME inclusion within a wider industry, quality and ethics have all been powerful emotive subject matters within my personally crafted marketing content over the past twelve months.

As I write this, I find myself pondering upon the subject matter of Corporate Social Responsibility. Why is it so important to me? Where was the connection first born? Why do I integrate the subject matter as part of an overall marketing strategy?

Is it a purely commercial driven function or; does it hold a far greater humane aspect of my deeper understanding and empathy towards ethical business behaviour?

To answer these questions we have to perform two basic actions. One; ascertain a genuine understanding of the commonly used phrase. Two; Step back in time to previous academic learnings.

The following quote from Corporate Responsibility Champions by David Grayson and Jane Nelson found upon page 12 of the publication, summarises the overall function of Corporate Social Responsibility:

Corporate Responsibility – in sum, the approaches that companies employ to embed environmental, social and Governance (ESG) risks and opportunities into their core business strategies and operations with the aim of either protecting or creating shared value for business and society – is increasingly recognized as a fact of business life.

I believe that the above statement delivers a poignant corporate objective that is undeniably intrinsic with present commercial function whilst demonstrating tangible future progression regarding the way that businesses and communities entwine so as to operate ethically within a rapidly shrinking global market place.

ORIGINS:

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) first came to my attention in 2006 whilst studying towards a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Level 6 Professional Diploma. The subject formed part of a complete module whereby students were asked to consider the consequences of ignoring business ethics.

For some unknown reason, I connected on an emotional level with the topic and fully understood its significance.

However, it was to be quite a number of years before I began implementing corporate responsibility policies and procedures at a strategic management level.

Many readers of my work realise that my career began within the graphic design discipline whereby I have always been very visual by nature.

The Brand Story delves into my personal origins with graphic novels, depicting my approach to overall branding as reading very much like a story; entwining colourful characters and events within wider business activity.

It was whilst working at Office Depot that I first became enticed by the field of marketing. Friends and colleagues alike know that United Refrigeration is where I first obtained a marketing specific role.

Gillian Warner championed my CIM studies, encouraging me to enter academia at the highest level possible. Fairly young in my career, I was fortunate to gain a substantially credible qualification which delivered significant kudos regarding my ability to operate at a higher strategic level within a company.

THE FIRST HAPPENING:

Always in the back of my mind but yet to be implemented as part of an overall strategy, Merton Group (UK) Ltd is where I first introduced CSR as a corporate objective.

By my own admission, it was initially activated out of business development necessity as opposed to personal desire.

During my time as Marketing Manager for the group, I was tasked with participating within a wide variety of public procurement exercises and enjoyed a plethora of profitable successes. The road to winning high value contracts through the submission of compelling tender proposals was not an easy journey. It was filled with steep learning curves, knock backs as well as long hours working towards intensive deadlines.

I was fortunate to have been sent on some highly beneficial training courses which helped widen my understanding of public sector requirements. The Government was keen to see public sector organisations collaborate with SMEs which presented a commercial opportunity that I found impossible to ignore.

Considering that SMEs make up the majority of UK employment, it is understandable that public sector procurement requires stringent levels of business transparency. I was responsible for championing ISO 14001 accreditation for the business which officially recognised corporate commitment towards the environment.

Policies were both created as well as operationally implemented so as to address overall CSR requirements. Where necessary, additional

certification was obtained so as to instill confidence regarding organisational compliancy.

The activity of formalising corporate responsibility was both daunting as well as time consuming but; the results were definitely worth it. I began to win a multitude of high value contracts whilst developing a style of writing and tone of voice that engaged with the public sector industries within which I operated.

The sales person inside me thoroughly enjoyed the excitement garnered from a high value win but; something else was beginning to grow within my consciousness.

Within the bid process, I was frequently required to deliver final pitches as well as participate within contract negotiations. Of course, it was face-to-face engagement which really began to nurture a deeper empathy towards the importance of corporate responsibility.

I was not merely ticking boxes of conformity but more; changing corporate culture for the better whilst having a far reaching influence regarding sustainability, the environment as well as the communities within which we all live. I was making a positive difference through the introduction of best working practices and CSR engagement.

Furthermore, supply chain audits were introduced so as to influence ethical activity on a much larger scale.

GETTING LOCAL:

My time working for ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services witnessed me delivering a value added field based service provision to a franchised network of national commercial cleaning business owners.

I was keen to embed myself as part of the team for each client within my portfolio and activated the following marketing tactics; localised marketing planning and implementation utilising a full suite of tools, complete visual communication and graphic design service, online development, interactive workshops and social media agitation.

Not fully satisfied with the range of services made available to my network, I passionately introduced a bid writing offering so as to help localised businesses grow individual turnover by participating within public sector procurement opportunities. It was a success and tender writing became a tremendous share of my operational activity.

Whereas Merton Group (UK) Ltd supplies a consumable based product solution, ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services predominantly delivers a cleaning service provision. This required an adoption of a slightly different way of thinking.

The first tender composed in partnership with a business owner was for a school cleaning contract.

The deadline for submission was looming whereby substantial checks were conducted so as to ensure the highest possible score. Noticeably, safeguarding was considered an incredibly poignant topic to be communicated within an educational establishment’s team of purchasing decision makers.

We were successful in winning the contract and the methods used were rolled out to the network as best practice which resulted in a national increase in contract opportunities within the educational sector.

Furthermore, when overhauling the commercial website I felt it important for the web developer to add a page clearly promoting organisational commitment towards CSR.

As I reflect upon my career and personal journey with corporate social responsibility, a few key points stand out for me. Addressing the necessity to operate in an ethical manner does result in tangible profitable growth to be presented at Boardroom level. More importantly, an appreciation of CSR and making necessary organisational changes has a positive impact regarding the environment, sustainability whilst also improving communities. Diversity also forms an integral component of CSR initiatives.

OUR JOURNEY:

Referring back to Corporate Responsibility Coalitions by David Grayson and Jane Nelson educates me with regards to where I fit within the wider issue. A wonderful diagram on page 19 illustrates the different individuals and groups most influential in activating CSR initiatives. These consist of:

• Governments
• Philanthropic Foundations
• Financial Investors
• Coalitions
• Companies
• Champions
• Academic Institutions
• Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

I was recently asked if I am a Philanthropist. In all honesty, I do not consider myself to be one and personally categorise myself within the role of a CSR champion, the definition of which is:

Individual business leaders, sustainability professionals, social entrepreneurs and activists inside and beyond companies who are driving change internally and externally.

Page 124 identifies key experiences required to encourage CSR of which I believe to possess the following:

• Senior management expertise from across a range of multinational companies and small and medium enterprises
• Policy advocacy and development skills
• Public relations and communications specialists with experience in both the EU and U.S markets
• Experts in building partnerships and the design of collaborative projects

Page 19 also highlights companies as being intrinsic within their duties of developing CSR at a strategic and operational level:

Individual companies that have policies and procedures in practices to embed responsible business practices into core strategy, governance and operations and are willing to invest in collective business action and partnerships.

Further reflection empowers me to understand that I have personally implemented organisational change so as to promote corporate responsibility whilst also benefitting from being surrounded by pre-existing policies and internal CSR champions to be communicated within an eclectic mix of marketing content.

Tidyco commits to CSR initiatives incredibly well. Re-reading both the Brand Story as well as the Tidyco Marketing Report 2017 reminds me how intrinsic it feels for me to entwine CSR within both marketing function as well as overall corporate strategy.

Whilst I was fortunate to join the business with pre-existing policies and procedures, there was a marketing strategy implemented to update all documentation as well as communicate ethical activity with all stakeholders.

Of course, Tidyco was recognised for its corporate responsibilities by Amanda Solloway who was at the time MP for Derby North, whereby the company was subsequently presented with a Parliamentary award nomination.

Mary Briggs and Mark Newman are both highly influential in promoting Health & Safety procedures whilst the business benefits from Paul Quinn who acts as a quality control ambassador.

Phil Mason is widely recognised as a sustainability and environmental professional, regularly advising local businesses as how best to obtain available funding so as to enhance environmental objectives.

Sounil has recently implemented a ‘Celebrating Diversity’ core shared value throughout the organisation whilst the overall team works towards enhancing the communities within which we operate.

Unquestionably, I have found myself acting as overall brand custodian and CSR champion for the business which is promoted throughout my marketing work with both internal and external stakeholders alike.

There are some wonderful examples available in the public domain regarding Tidyco’s commitment towards ethical trading.

Previous communication has seen me discussing the importance of SME awareness regarding CSR consideration and the positive impact this can collectively bring to a much wider industry. This leads me to imagine what the future of CSR may look like…

THE FUTURE:

The book that has inspired me to write about my personal journey with CSR concentrates upon the theme of coalitions. How do I and the organisation that I work for fit into this? What is our place within the wider rail industry?

I am using the rail industry as an example because this is the biggest market share within which Tidyco operates. However, on a much larger scale, the issue of CSR transcends into all industries and sectors within which the company serves.

Understandably, I discuss the rail industry here mainly in part to my involvement at Director Level with the Midlands Rail Forum.

Topical too, are Government incentives to improve equality statistics within both the rail industry and overall transport sector. The field of engineering also faces major contemporary challenges regarding the need for substantial advancements towards corporate responsibility goals.

So, undeniable challenges lay ahead. There is a plethora of statistics readily available within the public domain demonstrating an innate need to meaningfully improve diversity figures.

As an SME, Tidyco is striving to address these issues which forms part of overal critical success factors.

My intention is to become an industry SME ambassador regarding CSR best practices within the overall supply chain as well as industry at large. By demonstrating and communicating best practice, I hope and envisage that more SMEs will engage and adopt similar tactics. This can only be a good thing.

​Of course, SMEs also have the ability to influence Government, large institutions as well as public sector. I find myself collaborating on a regular basis with the Government and businesses of all sizes whereby; there is a forward thinking coalition of thought leaders striving to encourage positive change.

Let us not forget a highly valuable element of commitment four within the Rail Delivery Groups plan to change, invest and secure prosperity for Britain:

Create more jobs, increase diversity and provide our employees with rewarding careers.

Page 24 of the Rail Delivery Groups strategic plan outlines a heavy focus regarding addressing the requirements for a diverse industry. Tidyco is pleased to support such initiatives by conducting incredibly positive operational practices. Diversity forms another element of overall CSR topics of which, Tidyco has developed policies and procedures to continuously improve all.

As I draw to the end of this particular feature, I cannot help but feel that I still have a long way to go on my journey. Industry collaboration is intrinsic to the success of maximising CSR improvements and I genuinely believe that I have made a great start. 2017 has seen me solidify internal procedures prior to engaging with a much larger industry and collective group of stakeholders… Exciting times ahead!

About the author

Barry Aldridge MCIM

Head of Marketing at Tidyco Limited and member of the Board of Directors for Midlands Rail Forum.