Kevin Craig is the CEO and Founder of PLMR, a communications agency that gives 5% of its annual profits to charity.
The concept of businesses giving back isn’t new, yet nor is it one that has become ubiquitous amongst those of us in the corporate world.
For companies like Pret a Manger or Unilever, philanthropy and corporate social responsibility form an integral facet of their brand. For others, the odd charity dinner or matched sponsorship programme is as far as the tangible action goes, if at all.
This isn’t good enough anymore. In an era where all levels and layers of society are being forced to take a long hard look at how they operate, it’s high time we started holding the private sector to higher standards when it comes to giving back. If you’re a CEO, now is the time to put your money where your mouth is.
Private sector companies often like to make a song and dance about their philanthropic values. It forms part of their glossy marketing literature and most large corporations will have a whole section of their website dedicated to CSR.
And there are many examples of companies where this ‘branding’ is genuinely backed-up by impactful giving and support. Unfortunately, for too many others it’s little more than window dressing.
Few companies are bold enough to make a firm financial commitment when it comes to giving. But perhaps we should be challenging and supporting more of them to do so.
The day I founded my communications agency, PLMR, I made a commitment to donating 5% of annual profits to charitable causes. As the company has grown, the causes have evolved from being those close to my heart, to those nominated by colleagues.
Thankfully, the value of these donations have steadily increased along the way. Ultimately, there are thousands of charities in desperate need of funds.
The money PLMR makes once everyone’s salaries are paid and tax bills are settled is profit – so why shouldn’t a business such as mine hold itself to account and commit to giving back in the most transparent of ways
As headline after headline show, the days of unchecked corporate greed are numbered. From the unexpected popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda of fairness and equality, to the recent exposés surrounding the super-rich and their tax havens; it’s quite clear that many people have had enough.
Lest big corporates become toxic brands, CEOs should start looking with a critical eye at their approach to profit and the role they play in supporting their communities and global causes. Whilst it might sting to see profit margins shaved, (not to mention the shareholders who may push back), CEOs should be heartily encouraged and supported to become bolder in their philanthropic endeavours.
Firm, measurable promises about charitable donations will normalise a culture of giving back a fixed amount of the profit made. Charities will benefit from not only the funds, but also the culture that will trickle down through organisational values to the moral fabric of the team members who work there.
It’s likely that most CEOs would self-identify as good, decent people and the overwhelming majority I have encountered certainly are. It’s therefore time that all those in such roles take a good look at their corporate priorities and make moves to do the good and decent thing.