In December 2014, the EU adopted a Directive which obliges public companies which employ over 500 employees to report on non-financial matters, such as social and employee-related matters, human rights and environmental matters. This directive has given further impetus to various CSR and sustainability initiatives that have become increasingly common, particularly in a business environment where shareholders, business partners and consumers who hold companies to account are on the rise.
Having said this, we have seen that it is not only companies who fall within the remit of the Directive which embark on CSR or sustainability initiatives and opt to report to their stakeholders about their commitments in this regard – other companies are publishing CSR or sustainability reports voluntarily. So why is this happening?
Companies that want to survive current challenges understand that operating sustainably not only benefits society at large, but also contributes towards the long-term (and sometimes short-term) profitability of their enterprises. Take for instance, the drive towards promoting workplace diversity and actively managing intercultural differences: today any business seeking growth acknowledges that this cannot be achieved without recruiting workers hailing from different parts of the world. Diversity management and intercultural learning has become a must for such business owners, in whose interest it is to ensure that the cultural differences at the place of work do not develop into conflicts. On the contrary, if managed properly, such differences can be capitalised upon in order to enhance innovation, and also to further attract and eventually retain valuable talent.
Diversity can also be integrated into a company’s marketing and business development plans, and when done correctly, can sometimes prove to be crucial in attracting customers and/or business partners from certain specific demographics. However, when not actively addressed, intercultural differences can create serious tensions in the workplace and in the business operation, which would ultimately turn out to negatively impact efficiency and profitability.
Equal treatment of employees and other stakeholders and other aspects of diversity management are factored into the ISO 26000 guidelines on corporate social responsibility. A holistic CSR strategy and action plan, utilising these guidelines and/or other relevant reference frameworks, can guide companies to address these very topical and relevant issues in a structured manner. The assistance of a suitably qualified expert can add a dimension which might not be available to a company internally, whilst also adding an element of objectivity when carrying out the required assessments.
Unfortunately many Maltese enterprises still consider investments in such initiatives as additional burdens and do not fully grasp the long term value which would be brought about by being more proactive in this regard. On the positive side, a handful of forward-thinking entrepreneurs understand the power of diversity and of operating in an ethical manner, both for society at large, but also for the longevity of their enterprises. These are the leaders who are not content with mediocrity and are not afraid to put their money where their mouth is.