creating jobs for the disadvantaged - true corporate social responsibility.

21/07/2014 16:56:20

Provide a meal and they will eat for a day, provide a job and they will eat for a lifetime. Now I have taken a liberty with this old proverb but over the last few months and weeks, like many of you I have been fascinated by the challenges within the Australian Federal Budget to provide fair outcomes for all our citizens, whilst at the same time addressing our increasing deficit levels.

It would seem that at the heart of the issue, the amount we are spending on welfare payments or benefits in various forms is unsustainable based on the country's revenue streams. If Australia were a corporation we would have gone bust a long time ago.

Just as a corporation must manage sales and expenses, a fiscally responsible government of any political persuasion has only two options when managing its budget raise taxes to cover the spending cost or cut the amount of spending. Neither of which is ever popular and places the government of the day in a “no-win” situation with the very people who elected them to manage the economy.

Many Australian corporations have adopted corporate social responsibility as a key facet of their business. Under these programs they contribute money and resources to support their local communities, charities and the environment to name just a few causes. But how can we do more? How can we use the power of businesses large and small to help address the issues of our economy and society more broadly and in a more sustainable way?

In his recent speech at the World Business Forum in Sydney, Harvard Business School Professor and one of the fathers of modern day business strategy, Michael Porter, urged Australian businesses to take their CSR focus one step further by treating corporate social responsibility as a competitive advantage by adopting his concept of "Shared Value Creation".

He stated that governments cannot solve the issues in our society alone and that by using the concept of shared value creation companies can apply their capitalist principles to help address social issues at a much broader and more sustainable level.

In Australia there are over 700,000 people receiving unemployment benefit payments and approximately 1.1 million people receiving a disability support or a single parent pension. Our total welfare payments each year exceed tens of billions of dollars.

Whilst a percentage of these people are unable to work, there is a very large percentage who would love to work, given the right opportunities, the right level of support and the right level of flexibility to meet their personal circumstances. And with over 2.1 million actively trading business in Australia, we as the business community are in a position to take corporate social responsibility to the next level and make a real difference by providing sustainable decent work to disadvantaged job seekers.

At the risk of over simplifying a complex set of issues, it seems logical that when an individual has a job, they no longer need welfare payments from the government. And therefore the more jobs we create for disadvantaged job seekers, the more we reduce government spending on welfare payments thereby creating greater scope to continue and grow essential programs that support education, health and welfare and create a caring Australia we can all be proud of.

So whilst the support of charities, our community and other similar programs should remain a focus for all organisations' CSR programs, let's also embrace 'shared value creation' to provide real jobs and a sustainable future for disadvantaged Australians. The next time you have a job vacancy, no matter how big or small your business, hire a single parent, hire an older person, a refugee, a person with a disability or an unemployed person. It's good for them, it's good for your business and it's good for Australia.