Are the Guernsey business sector and the public service provision sector sharing the burden together?

October 7th, 2011 by Julian Winser

Is Corporate Social Responsibility just the latest management tool, or is there a demonstrable relevance for Guernsey by way of sharing the burden of social provision?

I will start this by highlighting the principal differences between the two types of organisation that would be involved in the ‘sharing of the burden’ mentioned above – and make no mistake – they are different.

The two sectors are first the Guernsey business sector and second the Guernsey ‘public service provision’ sector: be it either the States of Guernsey or the third sector including charities.

The business sector has profit as its ultimate primary driver. It may be described in different ways; increased shareholder value, margin, revenue growth, opportunity maximisation etc – but ultimately – profit for the shareholders.

The company I work for, Schroders, is no different. My mission is to grow our contribution to shareholders – profit – by 15% per annum. Another area that is different is in the use and management of risk – for gain.

Julian Winser, Chief Executive of Schroders Private Bank, and President of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce, presents "Are we sharing the burden together?" to the Guernsey Institute of Directors Annual Debate at Beau Sejour Leisure Centre on 6 October 2011 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

In contrast the public service sector has service provision as its primary driver. Every measure by which they are judged, by the recipients of this service provision is to do with the quality, the volume, the reach, and its overall effectiveness – much of which is enshrined in either legislation, or history, as a right for every citizen. This sector also considers risk – but generally only to mitigate or eradicate it.

Let us look at the business sector for a moment. Every company now has significant – and growing – pressure on it to incorporate a CSR policy into the business.

At the lightest it is purely a nicely written policy, which highlights a few good buzz words, and looks fantastic in the annual report and accounts. This is bolstered – and in some respects validated – by the inclusion of some recognised award – IIP, Green, ISO 14,000, Corporate Engagement to name some.

A good CSR policy will include:

  • donations to charity,
  • reduction of carbon footprint,
  • waste minimisation,
  • treating ones employees with respect,
  • provision of a good and safe working environment,
  • employment of the principles of sustainability,
  • a good working policy covering disabled employees,maternity cases and incidents of sickness.

In many cases some of this is covered by primary legislation – though less so in Guernsey.

A good company – certainly in CSR terms – will also have a competitive pension provision which looks beyond the working life of its employees.

So far I have only talked about what is today recognised as adequate CSR for a company that wishes to be seen as excellent.

Much of that described is sensible, good business practice, will cost a bit in terms of time, effort and money – and does give some but not huge payback.

What I really want to highlight is the huge potential benefit that can accrue to a company through its staff being, let’s say, ‘actively involved’ in the community.  By the community I mean all those areas that have already been mentioned today by both my-self and others.

The Charity sector – through being potentially a trustee or an expert or a volunteer.  Industry bodies – GIBA, IOD, Chamber of Commerce, GACO, GIFA, GEA, AGB, FSG, Guernsey Bar Association, Guernsey Finance, etc.  And finally States, or Ex-Sates bodies – Aurigny, Guernsey Water, Guernsey Electricity, Guernsey Post, departmental boards, the GTA etc to name some.  The majority of these positions, though not all, are unpaid; and all take time.   Time is the difficult one for a company employee – as businesses will generally rarely do something for nothing.  So what does a company get out of allowing – or encouraging staff to participate in the community – at some expense to itself?  In my view a huge amount:

First.  Staff development.  Employees are able to grow in depth and breadth, in a way that may be limited in any company but particularly so in a small or medium sized company with a focused mandate.

Second. Networking.  Working with a mix of people with whom you would not normally be associated allows for networking in differing forums.  If nothing else there will be much to be learned about other industries and how they operate – or at least you will be exposed to different approaches to situations in the same industry.

Third. Access to senior industry, Government and third sector individuals.  The value of this cannot be underestimated.  A number of businesses in Guernsey either do benefit from this – or could do so if they felt they had a ‘platform’ from which they could.  The ability that a large number of you, in this audience, has to ring up our Commerce and Employment minister, for instance, is to be cherished. It is rare by comparison to most places in the world.  This is made much easier if you know the Commerce and Industry minister and he or she knows you.

Fourth. Invitation to advise.  A position of influence on behalf of your business, yourself, or your organisation.

FifthAccess to information.  Knowledge is power.

Julian Winser, Chief Executive of Schroders Private Bank, and President of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce, gives a presentation on Corporate Social Responsibility to the Guernsey Institute of Directors Annual Debate on 6 October 2011 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Sixth. Participation at the highest level.  In this case the benefit is one of experience.  I will tell you a quick story about how experience made a difference. I am sure that many of you will remember similar moments in your own past. Many years ago I was a very junior fund manager in London and one of my clients was The Princes Trust…….

Seventh. A say in Guernsey’s future. You all know that this is hugely important – and all would wish to have a say in the island’s and your own future.

Eighth. Benefit to staff. Individual staff members will personally benefit from interaction with both industries and individuals that they would not normally associate with in a working environment.

Ninth. – and last. Opportunity to influence at all levels. Arguably the most important of all. The ability to influence an outcome is what senior politicians dream about. You can do this at many levels – if you participate ‘in the community’.

I have spent a few moments describing what a business can get out of participating ‘in the community’. What I have taken for granted – wrongly I suspect in the view of one or two in the room – is that I have not clearly presented what value can be accrued by the service providers through the input of expertise from those in the business sector – with that focus on profit.

However, while there is likely to be a small number of questioners, the majority of you in this room are confident in your own ability to add value – principally because most of you will have been paid very well for your work, either recently or a little while ago.

Many would ask – why not just give money?

Good advice can be bought, labour can be bought. But – you cannot buy passion.

We make it an objective that senior members of staff will all participate in the community by serving either as a non-executive director, as a member of an industry body or as a charity Trustee.

Further, all staff are encouraged to use 15 hours per annum of their working time for charity.

Overall, I do personally believe in the concept of sustainability – that is the belief that we should do nothing today that will preclude our children from doing the same – or further, doing today that which is necessary to ensure that our children can do tomorrow that which we can do today – so have an inbuilt personal will to share in the burden of ‘social provision’.

If you combine this with the huge benefit accrued by any company by working together with the ‘service provision’ sector – the argument becomes compelling. CSR is not just ‘the latest management tool’. It is demonstratively relevant.


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