CSR in Business – What’s the Point?
Author: Bushra Ali, Business Intelligence Specialist, Logistics Executive Group
In 2005, Logistics Executive Group announced its support and partnership with Oasis Africa, a charity that addresses lack of education opportunities in Africa’s biggest and darkest slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kibera. In the past 12+ years, the initiative has impacted the lives of over a thousand Kenyan children and their families, with no plans to slow down anytime soon.
According to Kim Winter, Global CEO of Logistics Executive Group and Founder of Oasis Africa, the charity was not conceived as part of a brand positioning strategy for his company. Rather, the idea emerged spontaneously during a visit to Kenya when he stumbled upon a community of 50 orphans and vulnerable children learning in a dark, small, sewage-ridden, unsafe iron shed on a casual visit to Kibera. In fact, the Oasis Africa school was built largely through personal donations by founding team members, before annual fundraisers and online donations made it possible to significantly expand the organization’s efforts.
The question that arises is – if this was such a spur-of-the-moment, purely empathy-driven initiative, why would a group of companies like Logistics Executive Group choose to make Oasis Africa its charitable arm, rather than let it remain a personal endeavor helmed by a group of friends with shared concerns? Surely, the Group could have still channeled its resources and networks toward supporting the initiative, and perhaps even capitalized on some marketing benefits by attaching their brand to fundraising campaigns if they so fancied. But why did they choose to make Oasis Africa a part of Logistics Executive Group’s story, rather than let it just be the other way round?
The answer to this question lies not only in what Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, means to a company, but also how a company chooses to define itself and its culture in relation to ALL of its stakeholders, whether it be its workforce, clients, or society at large.
In this golden age of technology in which we are all too busy figuring out how to automate our businesses (and even personal lives), it is easy to forget that everything we do is pretty much still people-driven. It is people that create the technologies that we now rely on, people who harness and develop these technologies, people who evaluate and critique our efforts as companies and individuals, and people we ultimately serve through the jobs we dedicate our lives to everyday – people including ourselves.
Interestingly, a spate of recent studies on the impact of rising technologies such as artificial intelligence on our economies conclude that it is the ‘people factor’ that is becoming more and more important in the wake of technological evolution. A recent report by Deloitte anticipates that jobs that involve (as of yet unprogrammable) human attributes, including ‘genuine creativity’, ‘empathy’ and ‘complex care’ are going to become of utmost importance in the world economy in the not-so-distant future. Furthermore, as the world economy becomes increasingly globalized and democratized, the ‘people’ we interact with, whether as colleagues, staff or customers, are becoming more diverse and the needs and demands we cater to more eclectic and rapidly evolving than ever.
“Having started out as primarily a recruitment firm about twenty years ago, Logistics Executive Group is hardly a stranger to the ‘people factor’ and its critical relationship with the success of any venture,” says Global CEO, Kim Winter. “In fact, it was people-centric thinking that led us to establish this company and help our clients find talent and cultivate cultures that boost the achievement of organizational objectives, as well as their stakeholders’ satisfaction,” he adds.
Today, the Group runs an international network of offices spanning 14 countries across regions that couldn’t be more different in terms of culture, language, and history. However, more than culture studies, history books and language lessons, the company has found its unwavering focus on and commitment to one simple priority to be the most successful strategy for fostering a powerhouse work culture and continued relationships with clients, according to COO Darryl Judd – “a firm commitment and sincere passion for shared values, motivators and goals.”
Does this comes across as too simplistic and/or generic? Perhaps. Nonetheless, the Group’s leadership stand by their words. “In one simple, clichéd approach, we have managed to capture what many multinationals dedicate an exorbitant amount of resources to, yet find too elusive to actualize,” asserts Judd. “In my view, our success here lies not only in our ability to identify the right objective, but also the way we choose to pursue and achieve it,” adds Winter.
This is where projects such as Oasis Africa come in. According to the Group’s leadership, Oasis Africa became a part of Logistics Executive Group simply because several members of their team wanted to get involved. However, this interest wasn’t inspired by board room meetings and presentations or a memo from the top, but rather through the day-to-day conversations and exchange of interests, ideas, passions and commitments. In fact, this exchange is a pivotal part of the company’s cultural dynamic, despite the team’s geographic spread. Optimizing the use of modern communications technologies such as Skype and WhatsApp allows the team to stay connected across borders and time zones, with at least one group ‘catch-up’ meeting a week.
Now, 12 years since Oasis Africa became a part of Logistics Executive Group, the company is at the brink of turning the page onto a new, exciting chapter in its CSR story. As African democracies mature and the demographic dividend brings to the fore a sizeable population of ambitious and impassioned youth, Logistics Executive Group has decided to partner with Hands Up Kenya to empower Kenyan leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers of tomorrow.
Hands Up Kenya is a not-for-profit initiative that brings together the leaders of today to inspire opportunities, cultivate networks, and impart knowledge to Kenyan youth, with the hope of eventually expanding to other African countries as well. In the past 3 months alone, the initiative has welcomed on board more than 20 Ambassadors that include the likes of Australian singer Deni Hines, IATA’s Global Head of Cargo Glyn Hughes, and internationally-acclaimed Kenyan actress Chichi Seii. The organization’s ambitious plans include a three-part conference series starting with an inaugural event in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi that has an expected attendance of 1500-2000 Kenyan youth.
“It is incredible to see the momentum building around the initiative at the moment, given the level of enthusiasm, commitment and passion that has poured in from young and old, mentors and youngsters, African and international peers alike.” shares Judd, who has been closely involved with the initiative since its foundation. As part of the partnership, Logistics Executive Group will share its expertise in areas including brand and program development.
What does an initiative like Hands Up Kenya mean for a company like Logistics Executive Group? “For companies with long-term vision and a people-centric philosophy, it means not only seizing, but spearheading the exciting process of carving out the future,” Judd explains, “It means waking out of bed every morning with a strong sense of purpose for its workforce, and a realization that their day-to-day endeavors are connected to a bigger picture. It also means broadening networks, establishing new partners, embracing new communities and building bridges with some of tomorrow’s inevitable leaders and trailblazers. It means putting a hand in to give back, knowing without a doubt that it can only lift us all up in the process.” Now, wouldn’t you call this a truly win-win situation for all?