Francisco Román, President of the SERES Foundation and a member of the Universidad Europea Advisory Board.
We all have a responsibility to make the world a better place, from each individual all the way through to large companies. Society needs agents of change who are committed to protecting the environment, equality and human rights. Companies can have a positive impact on society through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Francisco Román, Present of the SERES Foundation, member of the Universidad Europea Advisory Board and President of Vodafone Spain is highly involved in the social dimension of businesses and has worked with many companies to help them develop their own CSR programs.
Why are Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs important for companies?
Nowadays a company’s relationship with society is a fundamental part of its strategy, meaning that CSR is essential. It’s impossible for companies to grow or be competitive without a healthy economy and society. Likewise, a strong society needs a solid and healthy business community. The two depend on each other.
We should also note that consumers increasingly demand that companies transform the world around them. This generation is unique and highly informed. It has high expectations and companies must adapt to meet its needs. It goes without saying that any company that targets younger consumers must think about how to improve its reputation.
And of course, this role starts with their management. In this respect, education and the values future managers receive at this stage of their life is key. Institutions like Universidad Europea know this.
Is CSR just about improving the reputation of the private sector or is it really a disinterested act in pursuit of the common good?
It goes without saying that, faced with major and growing social challenges, we all need to work together. The private sector has a lot to offer: productivity, innovation, jobs… At the SERES Foundation, we believe in the role of companies as agents of change.
As part of a company’s strategy, CSR can catalyze innovation and delivering guarantees. When you focus on the long-term, you soon see it’s not just about image. In fact, we try to go “one step further” identifying trends and promoting bonds between society and business that allow both to grow together.
What areas does CSR cover?
Organizations have the potential to make significant contributions to economic, social and environmental development, both through their operations and the creation of value chains. Businesses have the capacity to address major challenges, generating efficient, effective and scalable solutions, which are also sustainable.
What about Spain, are companies committed to CSR?
One of SERES’ concerns is not just creating value but being able to measure it. The third Business Social Impact Study, produced by the SERES Foundation and Deloitte, contains a number of interesting findings. The participating companies invested €714 million in CSR activities in 2016, 64% of which went to projects in Spain, with the remaining 36% targeting other countries. What’s more, 60% of companies plan to extend their CSR policies over time and throughout the value chain, showing their commitment and involving more agents in the process.
What does a foundation like SERES contribute to the country’s business community?
Companies want to move forward, to create real opportunities for collaboration, to implement new processes for working… but it’s not easy. SERES was formed to provide inspiration and address the challenges facing businesses when it comes to this transformation and stepping up to tackle social problems.
We try to take companies out of their comfort zone, we help them think big, to take a step forward, with a view to transforming them into successful and responsible businesses that embody excellence. I genuinely believe that SERES plays a part in driving the transformation toward a fairer and more prosperous world.
At SERES, businesses have access to social knowledge, new routes for integrating their commitment to society into their corporate strategy, tools that measure intangible benefits, an observatory of international trends and a network for sharing and accessing best practices in this area. We learn together in order to expand social activities within companies and have a more positive impact on the society in which companies operate.
As a member of the Universidad Europea Advisory Board, what is the role of CSR in education?
It’s important that all institutions involved in building the future back the consolidation of a healthier and stronger society. Universities must also include CSR in their strategy because this encourages students to get involved.
Education is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to bringing about change. Today’s students will be the managers and drivers of the new socio-economic reality.
How do you see the graduates of the future?
We will need responsible graduates who address collective challenges to restore people’s confidence in institutions and the public in general. They will need to know how to focus on people, look beyond their own interests and address the requirements of a global society.
Tomorrow’s leaders will need to be able to act, showing flexibility, speed and pragmatism when tackling social challenges and promoting corporate social responsibility within companies. Organizations won’t stand out because of the quality of their services or products but on their unique identity and values.