Community Engagement is About Companies Being Part of, Not Apart from, Society

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By Jan Levy

Sustainability, CSR, or whatever you wish to call it is made up of a range of critical business considerations. The traditional model includes the broad pillars of workplace, marketplace and environment.

Workplace speaks of topics such as equality, diversity, skills and employee engagement. Marketplace includes – but is not limited to – supply chain issues and the impact in society (positive and negative) of products and services. Environment refers to global concerns around natural assets such as carbon and water. All of these issues are to be taken seriously by business.

But there’s something else. Community engagement is the fourth pillar of CSR, the poor cousin, a nice to do alongside those critical business issues that make up the first three pillars. After all, volunteering (cue clichéd images of teams with spades), charity fundraising and working in schools are “nice” things to do.

But it’s time to challenge this model in which the first three pillars are critical and the fourth is discretionary. Despite the fact that many companies have poured more resource into volunteering – often for employee engagement and reputational purposes – community engagement is still not associated enough with core business concerns. But to view it as the additional bit is wrong, and here is why.

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