Corporate social responsibility strategies are a win-win for FE

30 May 2022, 6:00

ITPs and colleges without a CSR focus risk losing employees and potential new talent, writes Lee Dale

A socially responsible organisation is an attractive proposition for prospective employees.

Currently there is no current formalised regulation around the reporting of corporate social responsibility activities for independent training providers and colleges.

But a seismic shift in this field has recently been seen, with education providers championing these projects.

This area is a particular passion of my own. I strive, like many in education, to make a positive impact on the future world through my career activities today.

With government regulations such as net zero gaining more traction and feeding into economic strategy, the pace and focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainable approaches is only going to increase.

Not only does an early focus by ITPs and colleges feed into an ethical approach, as well as attracting new employee and learner talent – but by clearly communicating their commitment, and educating the future workforce, FE can help shift cultural thinking in these areas.

Shifts in cultural thinking and approaches only turn into positive action when individuals understand the reasons why change may be beneficial.

Author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek advises us that we should “start with why”. If we can educate people about why a change needs to be made, this allows individuals to emotionally engage, which often prompts more effective positive action.

Education providers are well poised to offer this approach through story-led learning, and teaching topics supported with case studies. This allows individuals to buy into a more sustainable and responsible future approach more readily, while role-modelling good practice.

At Estio Training, we have considered corporate social responsibility in recent years through the lens of social impact.

While leading to typical change initiatives, such as recycle bins, going paperless and no longer using one-use plastic cups, we have also been innovative in our approach. This includes everything from workplace culture to considering our carbon footprint.

We have also recently installed working groups with a core focus around charity, environment, equality, equity, and diversity, as well as staff experience.

This allows the process to no longer be only a top-down strategy, but a truly collaborative one, with buy-in at all levels of the organisation.

Staff being able to contribute towards these areas helps instil motivation, passion and drive in our overall strategy and ambition.

For those organisations who may not yet be considering CSR, there is the risk that talented individuals may not apply or may leave, as the corporate focus does not align with their personal ethical and moral approach.

It may also be the deciding factor when learners select which providers they wish to study with, if that provider seems to be lacking content and focus around this area.

With government initiatives and duties due to be imposed in coming years, it seems a wise move to place CSR high on the corporate strategy and agenda, while also positively impacting the world.

In order for CSR to reach maximum potential impact, there needs to be an evolution from voluntary championing of these topic.

Instead the approach requires a truly embedded curriculum which places CSR at the heart of delivery, and facilitating learners to critically assess approaches, as a core element of educational strategy.

Education also holds a unique position in being able to influence the decision-making within industry and labour markets, especially where apprenticeship provision is involved, with direct communication lines with employers.

Education plays a pivotal role within this shift, as we all contribute towards the development of tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers.

At this point I ask you to consider your approach towards CSR. Could the small changes you make today have a positive impact on tomorrow’s world?

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