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Turning platitude to attitude

Frankly, it’s not difficult to see why CR has a perception problem in many businesses. Too often CR is established as a separate function, with the core objective of making the company look good by supporting charitable and environmental causes. Emma Blaney, Group HR and CR Director Informa plc.

And with that approach, CR will not support a company’s bottom line. Yet CR can be seen in a different way. It’s the old ‘actions speak louder than words’ maxim. If your company is anything like ours, it already does a lot of good things, a lot of responsible things to keep serving its customers well, support employees and so forth. Over the past seven years Informa has formalised its CR process. We now see CR changing our business practices for the better by identifying sustainable projects which are cost-neutral or cost saving.

A vital step for us, when considering any CR initiative, is to first ask the creator to look beyond the project to the bottom line. So instead of having a CR budget to throw at ideas that arise, we ask our people to consider the financial impacts. If it’s cost-neutral or cost-beneficial then we’ll take it to the next stage. There are so many CR initiatives that do have a financial benefit to the business, that it would be mad not to launch these first. The important thing is that the business is working in tandem with CR, not at loggerheads. So, for example our UK shared services office in Colchester is aiming to be paper free by March. This will save us £50k a year and is, naturally, environmentally sound.

“We wouldn’t choose to work with a supplier just because of its noble environmental deeds, but using our purchasing power to improve the supply chain raises awareness”

As a global publishing and event business, we’re converting to Print On Demand, which means books get printed once an order has come in, rather than having a large number in stock. It’s clearly an initiative that helps our business financially by reducing our large printing, storage and pulping costs. Yet also supports our goal of reducing our environmental impact. Another transformational step we’ve taken is to appoint CR representatives in every Informa business. These are respected commercial people who have the close ear of their MDs. The brilliant thing is that their CR initiatives will suit their commercial and market needs. They know the nuances of their processes and how to make a difference. Only the people in the business will know the best steps to take to increase effectiveness and save money.

We also support The Prince’s Trust; we then upgraded our membership in response to employees wanting to support UK youths after the recent rioting. Yet, we also know that what our employees put in, they get back tenfold, which helps us as a business. So, if an employee uses their web designing skills to teach a youngster how to develop a website, they better understand their own processes and how to mentor others. If they do that training externally, they then help teach and mentor other employees internally as well.

Another common sense approach for us is to select suppliers on both price and environmental practices. We wouldn’t choose to work with a supplier just because of its noble environmental deeds, but using our purchasing power to improve the supply chain raises awareness. We know this works because investment houses ask questions of us – and our CR approach matters significantly. Informa has, for the last three years, hosted a Green Week. This motivates a great number of people globally, as we set fun and serious competitions to create new ideas. Partly, it’s about actively reducing energy consumption, but ultimately, it saves the business money.

HR practices are also important. For years, we’ve worked hard to make our recruitment, training, motivation and retention excellent. This can also be driven from good CR practice. Potential candidates want to work for companies that are sustainable and acting responsibly. They want to see the personality behind the CR issues and love, for instance, that our CEO, Peter Rigby, does a fun-run every year dressed in a banana suit, challenging Informa employees to beat his time. And that’s another point. If our CEO didn’t believe in CR, then the direct reports wouldn’t either. Because our CEO believes that we can combine an intelligent sustainable business practice with making a profit, it works here. Frankly, I think a lot of this is generational. It’ll change over time. At the end of the day, CR cannot go against the business goal of making a profit. But bring staff along for the ride, and it can be a great one.

Emma Blaney, Group HR and CR Director
Informa plc

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