We have appointed a Social Responsibility Officer, someone to be an additional conscience as we try and pursue a more socially responsible road in all we do here. It’s a tough road and we’re feeling our way – not that we were irresponsible in the past.

I have been searching the Net for advice from others talking about social responsibility. It bothers me that social responsibility has become systemised like the Total Quality movement of the 1980s. It’s like: do this course, sit this exam and you have the social responsibility seal of approval; or, sit on this community committee, give a reasonable amount publicly, get the certificate and you get the seal of approval.

What we are trying to do goes beyond such a systemised, dare I say, corporate, approach. Since this business has one shareholder and is relatively small (40 employees) we have the luxury of being able to make decisions from a personal, human, perspective. So when we consider social responsibility this is the perspective which matters to us: how we judge the decisions in the context of our social, justice and related beliefs.

A good (small) example is the treatment of people. In big business the production line approach is common in pursuit of the common customer experience. Their attitude is that you determine the customer experience through regulation and discipline. In my business the approach is flexible, allowing individuals to be themselves. We encourage creativity. Sure we maintain a clear focus on the customer experience, however, each person has flexibility in how that is delivered. Rules and regulations are kept to a minimum. I’d suggest that in big business you are more likely to see the stifling of creativity and individuality.

I don’t want to be responsible for stifling creativity. The personal individual experience is better for our people and for our customers. It is also better for the community. There is more likely to be a passing on of stories and experiences than in a clone like regulated big business experience.

So, part of our social responsibility is to allow people to be themselves with a watchful eye on the goals of the business.

We’re working on a social responsibility manifesto so that we can better explain what it means to us and those we interact with.

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