A new guide to help companies big and small with developing corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been released by the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).
Stephen Coote, president of Group 92 Mechanical Inc. and chair of the CCA Business and Market Development Committee, explained the timing couldn’t be better as even in the year-and-a-half of putting together the guide, CSR has become a growing trend across the country.
According to the guide, CSR is defined as a company’s voluntary initiatives and actions to improve its social and environmental performance and relations with stakeholders. It is voluntary because you can voluntarily choose which practices are most important to you to pursue, and if it is mandatory it is not considered CSR.
The project for the guide began in 2014 when a task force was struck to look into CSR and what role the CCA may have in promoting it.
The task force was headed up by Coote with help from Murray Aitken of Morven Construction, Graeme Clark from G.A.C. Consulting, Helen Goodland of Brantwood Consulting, Dave Graham from Smith and Long Limited, Manley McLachlan of the British Columbia Construction Association and Francis Roy from Gyptech Acoustique Inc.
To help shape the guide, interviews were conducted in October and November 2016, with three categories of stakeholders: industry influencers, including members of the CCA Executive Committee; CSR practitioners, including member companies of the CCA; and external stakeholders.
Interviewees were asked questions such as, what they think is the definition of CSR, the main trends driving CSR in the construction industry and the main components of the business case for CSR.
Coote explained when it came to writing the guide, the team wanted something practical for all CCA members.
"It was tough because the audience is so broad so it is broken down into sections from early practices to advanced practices," he said.
Small local companies to massive multinational companies will have something to learn. The guide has numerous checklists and sections to add notes like a workbook as well as an extensive appendix for those who want to take a deeper dive.
While CSR is nothing new in many other industries, Coote explained it is becoming more and more important in the construction industry. This is partially due to social media, which has made the industry visible on a much larger scale. Companies are also facing pressure from clients who want to do business with ethical, socially responsible companies.
"It’s important that they understand the definition," said Coote, who noted CSR is often misunderstood or is something that companies find out they are already doing in some form.
The biggest misconception about CSR Coote sees is that many in the industry view it as a burden.
"What I’ve seen is that people view this as another cost of business and they have to view it differently," he said. "You can do the right thing but also you can make money with it. You can do the right thing for people, the planet as well as profit. It should not be viewed as a cost. It should be viewed as an opportunity."
Coote said many CSR related activities, like reducing waste, appealing to millennials to reduce turnover as well as improving one’s brand all have positive financial impacts.
"CSR does not start in the field, it starts in the boardroom," he said.
The guide is available to members through local construction associations and through the CCA website.