Q&A with our CSR Chair Clare Spottiswoode
Why is CSR important and what value does it bring to the business?
CSR is an important differentiator for the group. We find that it has become increasingly important to customers as part of their process for evaluating and selecting a partner. This is particularly so, given the sensitive nature of some of the services our customers require and the fact that many of our customers are large multinational companies with high CSR standards themselves and high expectations of those with whom they do business.
For smaller customers too, our approach to CSR provides them with additional confidence that they are working with an organisation which respects laws and cultures, has high ethical standards, takes care of its employees and is a reliable and dependable partner.
Our global employee survey in 2013 demonstrated just how important working for a company with strong ethics codes and standards is to our colleagues around the world. It helps to attract and keep talented people who are proud to make a difference and of the company they work for.
A strong CSR strategy also helps to reassure investors that they are investing in a company which, in addition to achieving the appropriate level of financial return, conducts its business in a way which is ethically appropriate and in a manner which is expected of one of the world’s largest employers.
How do you prioritise your key CSR activities?
In general terms, it is common sense to identify which areas of CSR are important to our company and will make the most positive contribution to our success. However, we don’t make assumptions about priorities without input from our key stakeholder groups.
Every two years, we conduct a CSR materiality exercise which helps to assess the current market environment, business challenges and most relevant CSR strategies. In 2014 we broadened the scope of this exercise to include more external commentators and stakeholders – seeking views and opinions from investors, NGOs and customers in addition to our internal senior management and board members. This ensures that our strategies are aligned to stakeholder needs and the objectives of our business.
The process highlighted three core priority areas for 2014 – business ethics and anti-corruption, health and safety and human rights. Of course, whilst these are our three highest priority and most material issues, we continue to focus on all aspects of CSR.
How do you manage your CSR activities?
On a day-to-day level, we believe it is important for CSR to be embedded within our business practices and operational programmes. So, whilst we employ a CSR manager to coordinate our CSR activities and to take direct responsibility for a number of the key projects, we do not have a separate team of people dedicated to CSR. CSR matters form part of our business strategies in areas across the group such as human resources, risk management, internal audit and business development.
What level of oversight does the Board have on CSR strategies and actions?
CSR matters are discussed at a number of different levels within the organisation depending on the particular issues and the expertise and level of decision-making required. For example, we create multi-function working groups to work on specific projects, the Group Investment Committee assesses major investment proposals which may have CSR or reputational matters to address and the Audit and CSR Committees receive reports on strategic issues and have the opportunity to input to and challenge CSR activities.
Where matters of conduct are identified – such as in the case of the Electronic Monitoring contracts in the UK in 2013 – the board has very clear oversight of the key issues, investigations conducted on behalf of the company and involvement in discussions relating to actions taken as a result of any conduct issues.
We have regular CSR Committee meetings which are attended by three or four board members and senior representatives from key functions across the group. We receive regular reports on important matters such as health and safety and whistle-blowing and ad hoc reports and discussions on priorities, issues or initiatives which arise throughout the year.
We have regular direct contact with the socially responsible investment (SRI) community, which includes at least one group meeting each year which is chaired directly by me, the Chair of the CSR Committee.
Our CSR materiality exercise incorporates feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, including socially responsible investment analysts, customers, and NGOs. This ensures that at board level we are receiving direct feedback on the company’s CSR performance which is fed into our CSR strategies and programmes.
How do you ensure that your CSR strategies are aligned to industry best practice?
In addition to our CSR materiality exercise and direct engagement with the SRI community, we focus on monitoring best practice in CSR.
We take part in forums and discussion groups such as the UN Global Compact, we meet with other companies with experience in key CSR areas to learn from others who have implemented similar programmes and we seek advice from relevant experts on specific matters when required.
For example, when we developed our human rights policy and guidance, we enlisted the help of Hugo Slim, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict to provide advice and guidance on its development and implementation. We sought further input from leading lights in human rights who had been involved directly in the development of the UN Guidelines for Business and Human Rights and other experts who could assess our plans and provide useful feedback.
In addition, our global employee survey, which in 2013 generated responses from over 380,000 employees representing 62% of the workforce, focused partly on CSR matters. This helps us to understand what CSR means to our employees and to develop future CSR strategies and programmes which are meaningful to them.
What were the highlights of the CSR strategy in 2013?
There were many highlights in 2013. At a strategic level we were pleased to conclude the CSR materiality exercise, which gave us valuable insights to feed into our future CSR strategies and priorities.
We launched our human rights policy and guidance early in 2013 and worked hard to create and implement tools to assess our human rights performance and manage human rights risks throughout the remainder of the year.
We achieved a record response rate in our global employee survey, which provided us with a rich amount of data on how our colleagues feel about working for the company and in particular its values and how they are implemented across the group.
Whilst any employee fatality is unacceptable, we made progress in implementing our health and safety campaigns and strategies to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities across our global workforce. There is more work to do in 2014 to further spread best practice across the group.
We conducted a review of our group internal audit function and approach to risk management which has resulted in some important changes this year, including establishing a board level risk committee and separate risk management function designed to deeply embed a more effective risk management culture within G4S.
We enhanced the communication of the group’s Safe2Say whistle-blowing hotline with a campaign to increase employee awareness.
We continued the good work on our climate action campaign, resulting in a reduction in our carbon intensity of 23.5% since 2009.
We continued our extensive support of local communities with donations of £1.34 million and 26,000 volunteer hours, and supported employees facing hardship from natural disasters through a number of grants from the employee trust fund.
What are the Group’s key CSR priorities for 2014?
People and values will be the driving force behind our CSR strategies and campaigns for 2014. Having established the group’s values some ten years ago, we recently carried out an assessment to ensure that they are still fit for purpose and match the needs of the company for the future.
We were pleased to conclude that the values are as relevant today as they were in 2004, but noted that in some cases they had not been applied as consistently as they should have been and that the conduct of our staff in relation to certain contracts was not what we expect of representatives of the company.
To address this for the future and to ensure our values are fully embedded across the group and clearly understood by everyone, we will be implementing a campaign of reinvigorating the values and reinforcing their relevance across every aspect of the business.
We are also introducing a new value – Safety First – which focuses on health and safety matters and reinforces the importance of health and safety to the company. We are also implementing performance-related objectives for senior managers which focus on health and safety awareness and role modelling.
In addition, we will continue to implement our Driving Force Rules campaign to increase awareness of the risk of road traffic incidents across the group and encourage safe driving practices by employees who drive as part of their role within the company.
We will extend the use of critical country reviews in follow up to health and safety incidents and ensure that lessons are learned and preventative measures are adopted to reduce the number of accidents and driving-related fatalities.
We will implement specific action plans resulting from feedback from the global employee survey. These actions will be tailored to the feedback received at a group, regional and local level to ensure that we are meeting employee needs, engaging them well, providing them with exciting opportunities and the means to develop their capability and that they are able to live the group values in everything they do.
We have commenced a review of the group’s whistle-blowing policy, practices and systems to ensure that they remain best in class for an organisation of our size and complexity.
Recommendations from the review process will be implemented in 2014.
Having developed and launched a number of human rights tools and practices, we will make sure that they are embedded across the group, that human rights risk assessments and due diligence are carried out where necessary and that employees are aware of human rights issues and responsibilities at all levels across the group.
In terms of risk management, we will be implementing our newly defined approach to assessing risks across the business, supported by an updated risk management information system. We aim to more deeply embed a culture of risk management which will support our strategy and provide enhanced governance over critical business decisions. In addition, we will be implementing other recommendations from the 2013 review of internal audit, including increasing staffing levels and expanding its remit.
Over the last three years, whilst I have been a member of the CSR Committee, I have seen our CSR activities develop and mature into a key part of the business strategy. It has made a significant difference to our business, particularly in how we are perceived by many of our key stakeholder groups. I am proud to have been a part of that journey.