Partnering for Sustainability

by | Jul 7, 2011

Corporate social responsibility is becoming more of a strategic advantage as organizations look to align themselves with partners that embrace good corporate citizenship. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) definition of CSR is: “a firm’s accountability to internal and external stakeholders for organizational performance towards the goal of sustainable development.”

A rising social consciousness is inspiring the best companies to be premier corporate citizens, not only to provide exceptional value to customers but also to volunteer their time, money and resources to support local communities. But what should you consider when evaluating potential business partners?

Is there a culture of sustainability?

Look for partners that have a culture of social responsibility. Culture embodies the values, mindsets and behaviors of people in that organization. Start by looking at the senior leadership team as they are ultimately responsible for an organization’s CSR performance. This team is responsible for entrenching CSR practices, measures and objectives throughout the company. Sustainability is top-led by actions. While many things can influence a culture of social responsibility, the single most important one is leadership – what leaders do and say – in that order.

Is there a CSR scorecard?

Organizations that are truly committed to a CSR strategy will have a corporate scorecard that tracks CSR priorities against results year-over-year. In addition to covering economic growth (the foundation of any sustainable organization), the CSR scorecard should also address environmental and social goals. This establishes a triple bottom line approach to doing business. Here’s a potential framework and a few key questions to ask to get started:

Environmental sustainability. Is the organization committed to environmental change and do they have the strategy and metrics in place to measure progress? Is their environmental performance strategy disclosed? What does it cover – energy consumption, CO2 efficiency, paper consumption, water consumption, recycling, others?

Community welfare. Does your potential business partner align their community investment strategy to their strategic business and financial priorities? Does the organization provide an opportunity for employees to play positive roles in social, environmental or other causes? Do they track donation amounts and volunteer hours?

As an example, we have opted for a comprehensive global CSR philosophy focused on “doing good” in the communities in which we work, live and serve. Since 2007, more than 3,900 of our contact center team members in the Philippines have volunteered over 26, 000 hours to build homes in the two TELUS Gawad Kalinga Villages, clean up rivers, conduct medical missions, give lectures on healthy living and hold livelihood sessions. Likewise, in Central America, our team members have donated over 10,000 hours in the last two years to build and improve schools for young children. These activities not only contribute to the community but also to the welfare and engagement of our employees.

Workplace well-being. Does your potential business partner bolster employee engagement with a focus on recognition, career and performance development? Do they have wellness targets – for example, how many employees take advantage of onsite fitness facilities or well-being programs? Are there employee engagement targets (often measured by what employees do and say)? For example, do employees say good things about the company? Would they recommend the company to others? Would it take a lot for them to consider leaving the company? Also, how much budget is set aside for employee learning and recognition? And more important, are these targets met each year?

Governance, integrity and transparency. Finally, how integrated, strategic and accountable are their CSR efforts within the direction of their business? And how much of this is made transparent and disclosed? At TELUS, for example, we use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI-G3) reporting guidelines to help direct our own disclosure.

Why this matters

Your business partners are an extension of your own business, so ensuring their CSR programs are viable for the longer term helps everyone fulfill their commitments in both economically good and challenging times. Partnering for sustainability also benefits all stakeholders involved. For the CEO, CSR strengthens brand and reputation; for employees, it increases engagement and employer respect; and for customers, it enhances trust and willingness to do more business. In today’s business climate, evaluating the social and environmental sustainability practices of your potential partners could go a long way to enhancing economic success.

Jeffrey Puritt is President of TELUS International – a provider of BPO and contact center solutions to global clients, backed by TELUS, a leading Canadian telco with $9.9 billion of annual revenue and 12.3 million customer connections. In 2010, TELUS was named the world’s most philanthropic company corporation by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. For more information, visit:

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