The extent to which businesses take responsibility for creating and supporting higher standards of living and quality of life in the communities in which they operate, while still preserving profitability.
By taking steps which actively embrace and even celebrate their legal, ethical, environmental, social and financial responsibilities, business can become more resilient and successful.
It's a step beyond "corporate social responsibility".
In March 2014, Macc and CLES (the Centre for Local Economic Strategies) published a report entitled A Civil Economy for Manchester. This set out a vision for the city’s economy which recognises the crucial combination of the public, private and ‘social’ sectors as the three pillars of the city’s economy. The full report and updates on Macc's work around this are available in a dedicated section elsewhere on this website: www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/civileconomy
The report shows there is a mutual reliance between the private and social sectors: businesses rely on an effective workforce and an economy which can support their operations while in turn communities rely on sustainable employment to provide financial and personal stability. The report goes on to state that, with the public sector being impacted by deep spending cuts, the social and private sectors will increasingly need to be at the centre of stewardship of communities. For this to be successful there will be a need to forge stronger links between the two sectors.
“The social sector will be effective at engaging private sector organisations. Social sector leaders and infrastructure bodies in particular, would communicate the business case for the involvement of the commercial sector in social activities more clearly and in language which relates to business activities. Through communicating a concept of ‘triple profit’ (economic, environmental and social benefits), social sector organisations will be more successful in matching their ambitions to commercial enterprises, to create mutual benefits. The social sector would clearly define what forms of support they would benefit from, beyond cash injections, and make these messages clear to the private sector. This will then focus support to be meaningful. Strengthening the social sector through access to the skills and expertise of private sector organisations would foster greater understanding and working relationships between the two and strengthen the potential of social sector organisations to work towards their altruistic objectives.”
A Civil Economy for Manchester, CLES & Macc, March 2014
Business Citizenship means more than the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach. The purpose is creating more social good through collaboration: it does not simply mean the transfer of resources (e.g. money) from organisations who seek to make a profit to those which don’t. We also know that the word “corporate” in particular is not something SMEs identify with: it implies larger enterprises. We know that local businesses, especially Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are often closer to the communities they operate in, are more creative and often more nimble. We recognised that in pushing for something more than CSR / altruism there has to be a clear benefit for the business in pursuing this approach. The post-crash austerity environment has seen investors, consumers and employees increasingly aware of their power to support or punish companies. A failure to listen to these messages will in future prove to be a poor strategy for businesses who are striving to maintain market position.
Voluntary and community organisations are set up to address a specific issue: a need, a social problem or a gap not filled by either the private or public sectors. The purpose of such organisations is, ultimately, to seek not to be needed any longer: the aim of a charity is, in this sense, to close down. So a more developed relationship with business than only appealing to simple altruism (“please give us money!”) needs to focus on building partnerships to help address the issue: Business Citizenship is about businesses and social organisations working together and working differently to solve old problems and create new opportunities.
"Don't just give us money, work with us to achieve our vision!"
Some further reading on partnerships between the private and social sectors. These are the main documents which have shaped our approach to this work. Let us know if there's anything we should add here.
In 2013 Macc commissioned Forever Manchester (The Community Foundation for Greater Manchester) to produce a report on the state of the relationship between local business and the voluntary and community sector in Manchester. The report includes results of a survey of local businesses to assess the main barriers they found to working with local charities, voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises. Click here to download a copy of the report
Tom has written a number of books and articles about business - charity relationships. He has been one of the pioneering voices in identifying the need to move beyond traditional Corporate Social Responsibility approaches. Tom is on Twitter as @sector4focus
• SMEs in the Community
• Sheffield Hallam University (CRESR) and NAVCA - Local Business Giving: Between the Raffle Prize and a New Source of Funding
• Matten and Crane - Corporate Citizenship
• NFP Synergy - In Good Company
• Heledd Jenkins - Corporate Social Responsibility - Engaging SMEs in the Debate
• Enterprise 2020 Manifesto - The EU's corporate social responsibility network has produced a manifesto for responsible business. It’s a refreshingly short document and though it's clearly aimed at EU level businesses, it's a good indication of what the EU's priorities will be in the coming years.