I got up early last week and went for a trail run in one of the canyons above Draper, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake where I live. As the sun came up over the mountains and began to light up the valley, the natural beauty was incredible and forced me into a moment of reflection. Why are we in business and why do I sit at my desk day after day helping the multifamily industry? Do I do anything to make the relationship between resident and property manager easier? Is my job really just a culmination of pay-periods until I quit or get fired? Wow, I sure hope not. So how I can find value in what I do on a daily basis? Or am I just another consumer riding the “earn-and-spend” train until death?
It turns out that many people ask this exact question. And it wasn’t long ago that the term “Corporate Social Responsibility” was coined. CSR is defined as: “A company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both socially and ecologically) in which it operates.” Essentially, a company is doing positive things for society and the environment while making money. It is about illustrating and advancing goodwill through our professional lives, a company’s polices and practices, which in turn enhance relationships with employees and customers. CSR has a permanent role in over 70% of corporate agendas because it is focused on social concerns that directly impact the business and provide demonstrable financial benefit to the company.
The above corporate actions, all taken while driving revenue and profitability for the company, link the consumer, suppliers and employees with the company’s overall positive actions. Common benefits include employee retention, attracting new talent, and stronger valuation by investors. When you think of the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years you spend at your desk, the fact that your influence at that organization promotes efforts to give back to the community and make a difference in society, makes you feel just a little bit better as the clock ticks. In fact, surveys have found that 35% of employees would take a pay cut to work for a company committed to corporate social responsibility. Doing good for the community makes people feel good and it also adds diverse skills that employees can take back to their full-time roles. Prospective employees will also be attracted to a company that is socially responsible. In 2011, Forbes Insight reported that 60% of companies strongly agreed that “philanthropy and volunteerism are critical for recruiting younger qualified employees.”
Ok – where do we start? How do we tie this to multifamily? We all have to work together to make this happen. It is a basic philosophy of: “do it, measure it, expand it”. Begin by creating an organizational structure that supports sustainability and then link socially responsible activities with performance metrics so that the results can be measured and articulated to management. For example, at Property Solutions we save tens of thousand of renters from significant negative financial impact by making sure that they have renters insurance when they inadvertently cause damage to a landlords’ property. Also, we have kept our customers safe by making sure that convicted felons and sex offenders were kept out of the resident population. We have also developed online bill pay and paperless billing tools to help conserve our natural resources where possible. Incorporating charitable activity into resident activity programs is also a great way to build CSR; have a clothing drive for your residents where every item of donated clothing goes to a homeless shelter, for example.
The initial steps do not have to be gigantic and monumental leaps forward that take years to complete and burn resources, but even small steps that are executable now can be significant achievements and often lead to recognizable, measurable progress. And at the core of the corporate social responsibility, remember your organization’s core values.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a trend in organizations where a philosophy is adopted that promotes community support and engagement all while making a profit. CSR provides a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment to the employees and engages them with a sense of purpose. The true benefit is realized when the employee identifies with the brand and thereby performance and production increase. This creates an operational efficiency, generating more revenue at lower costs and contributing to the long-term success of the organization.