Should CSR lite have read CSR “lost”?

By Colin Crooks

Last year I published a blog entitled “Companies are going CSR lite” which many of you have been very complimentary about.  However, it seems that I was wrong.  I had not stated the half of the problem.  For what I had identified then was that firms were paying lip service to community issues by sponsoring events or organising fundraisers charity.  However, they were not really committing themselves to supporting the community in a deep and meaningful way.  I was talking then of an unwillingness to get involved in buying services from social enterprise or charities.  I believed then and I still believe that actually trading with social enterprises could achieve two things at once – a company would get a service that it needs in any case and at the same time assist a charity to help people in difficulty.  In this way, charities and social enterprises could gain access to the billions of pounds that companies spend every year.  If we could do that, we would dwarf the amounts that companies give in charity or sponsorship deals.

There are hundreds of social enterprises across the UKthat provide services to business whilst creating jobs for people on the margins of society.  But as the recession bit companies started to look to save money and social enterprises started to be squeezed out.  I felt then that they were simply using the recession as an excuse to pressurise their suppliers even more.

However, it seems that the cost cutting has reached deeper than the supply chain.  For my naive assumption that high profile events would still be getting sponsorship and support seems to be incorrect.  Last week I got talking to the fabulous, energetic people organising the London Green Fair

They told me its celebrating its 20th year, which makes it a veteran by any standard.  It is a fantastic event for anyone who’s not been.  It’s entertaining and interesting but it also gets you thinking about how we could live without damaging the planet so much.  Thousands flock to its stalls and entertainments.

But despite its cachet and the fact that it attracts so many people from all walks of life, they have been offered no substantial sponsorship deals at all this year.  And not for the want of trying.

It was then that I recalled a headline from a couple of weeks back in the Liverpool Post, it read, “Britain’s largest companies sitting on £130bn pile of cash”    Not so much CSR lite but CSR lost it appears.

PS. If anyone knows a company with 0.000001% of its profits they can donate to a good cause, introduce them to the good people at London Green Fair!