Corporate social responsibility (CSR), the idea that businesses should contribute to sustainable development by providing economic, social and environmental benefits to its members, is an approach that is expected to be built into company activity. Three Hands is a business which is helping integrate CSR through two creative schemes. Jan Levy explains how Three Hands combines leadership development, future talent, and strategic community investment with CSR below.
At Three Hands we work across three areas – People, Citizenship and Innovation – but the “special sauce” (as one friend of Three Hands put it recently) is when these agendas blend to create powerful, immersive projects and programmes that result in business and social value, hand in hand.
Our work with Vodafone’s future leaders provides a good example. Breakthrough is a development programme that aims to build a pipeline of future leaders at Vodafone. We designed and ran an experiential module that combined skills development with engagement in a critical external issue – cyber-safety. In a great blend of leadership development and sustainability learning, the participants were tasked with running cyber-safety workshops in local schools, and then reporting back to the Head of Sustainability to inform the wider cyber-safety strategy. The case study goes into more detail.
The Tata Consultancy Services ‘TCS Tech Challenge’ provides an inspiring case study of engaging with ‘future talent’, tackling STEM skills shortages, benefiting charities and engaging employees all at once. Teams of university students use technology to tackle challenges faced by local charities, supported by experienced TCS consultants who volunteer as mentors. We’ve been running the Tech Challenge for three years now; the latest winning team, from the University of Warwick, helped Coventry & Warwickshire YMCA devise a tech-based management information system. See the case study and short film.
These and other examples are about employees engaging in communities – but it’s not community engagement for the sake of it. Instead it’s about addressing business needs in ways that benefit society. Let’s take just one of those needs: the fact that leaders and future leaders have to understand and embrace the big social trends that affect their business in order for it to stay relevant, purposeful and, ultimately, sustainable. This isn’t CSR; this is good business which blends leadership, learning, culture and long-term success – special sauce indeed!