THINKPIECE: It's time to get personal with big business

PETER MARTIN, chief executive of national drug treatment charity Addaction

The corporate world may sometimes feel under siege from those queuing at the door with yet another initiative with a social responsibility clause attached.

In a recent interview, David Grayson, associate director of Business in the Community, said companies often treat corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a "bolt-on", and that it really should be at the heart of "the corporate DNA".

Andrew Wilson, director of the Ashridge Centre for Business and Society, said that by taking up the CSR challenge, the "leaders of tomorrow can achieve operational success and also develop a vision of how their organisation can address social and environmental challenges".

To plug directly into the heart of companies, charities need to get personal. They need to ask how can they link their work to the company's core business and get to its heart. Why? Simply because if everyone in the sector did their job correctly, we wouldn't still be talking about CSR as a bolt-on.

Third-sector workers are people of conviction, but they must convince target companies of the mutual benefits of CSR.

They have to learn to say: "Your business needs us and this is why.

Organisations need to be persuasive and present the most relevant reasons why embracing CSR is vital to the company's very lifeblood.

At Addaction we estimate it costs £15,000 a year to fund a heroin habit. Much of this money is funded by crime. By removing just one person from the drug-crime equation through treatment, the saving per individual in crime, health and benefits has been estimated at £70,000.

There is a direct link between drug-related crime, UK taxation and economic growth. Drug-related crime also has a huge impact on the performance of many companies operating in the retail and insurance sectors.

The world is experiencing a period of unprecedented social and environmental change. The state we are in now and will be in the future underpins the economic performance of companies.

While charities try to meet society's needs where Government on its own is unable to, it is our duty to get our job right. That job includes getting to the heart of business.

Lives depend on it.

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