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Corporate Social Responsibility has become the business phrase of the moment, but what can the hospitality trade take from this, asks Sarah Lelic, Editor, mad.co.uk.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been on the agenda for big businesses for some time now, but greater emphasis on such policies from politicians, business leaders and consumers means that the trend towards responsible trading is filtering down the commercial hierarchy to affect businesses of all sizes.
Ubiquitous retailer Tesco has also implemented a number of initiatives to improve its CSR credentials including offering extra Clubcard points for customers who reuse carrier bags as well as stepping up its efforts to engage with the local community in a positive way.
Not to be outdone, Conservative leader David Cameron has also leapt on the CSR bandwagon, urging big businesses to act more responsibly.
But while the corporate giants of this world are slowly starting to get the message on the issue, smaller businesses are left in the dark over what they can do to improve their own CSR policies and what impact it will have on their bottom line.
This sense of uncertainty over CSR is also hitting the catering and hospitality trades, with restaurants and hotels alike often unsure of the extent to which they should be embracing such policies and even what they entail.
The Government describes CSR as: "The business contribution to our sustainable development goals. Essentially it is about how business takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates - maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides."
In short, this means that CSR impacts on business areas as diverse as ethical investment, environmental policy, energy consumption, corporate governance, human rights and workplace issues such as training and equal opportunities. So what can those in the hospitality trade do?
Well, energy consumption is certainly a big issue these days and there is much that all businesses can do to limit their use of electricity and gas. This will, of course, have the added benefit of lowering energy bills which are currently crippling businesses.
For the hospitality trades, ethical sourcing of ingredients is another big CSR issue to be aware of. Whether this means supporting local farmers by ordering produce from them, or ensuring food and ingredients come from sustainable sources, this is an area which many restaurateurs and hoteliers are starting to become much more aware of.
Ethical treatment of staff is another key tenet of a successful CSR programme and one where the hospitality trade can benefit. While the industry as a whole is often reliant on temporary or low-paid workers, if staff are well looked after then they can turn into a company's biggest asset rather than just a drain on management time. Of course, a happy and well-treated workforce also has the ability to be an effective brand ambassador for any company.
Taken in isolation, any of the policies outlined above can reap benefits for those in the hospitality trade, but as a package they become an effective means of structuring a sound business strategy going forward.
What's more, with the rise of the eco-consumer, whose purchasing decisions are governed by more ethical factors than price alone, this is an opportunity that businesses of all sizes and across all industries should not fail to take advantage of.