It’s almost a year since Kiwi.com officially launched our CSR program, Care.kiwi.com. Read more about our journey and all the challenges we bumped into on the way – including our allergy towards everything corporate, top down projects and formalities in general.
How it all started: Sharing is caring
Quite naturally. It seems that this willingness to give back to society is present in any larger group of people. Since we were a company of around 80 people, various charitable activities organised by employees started to appear – flea markets, baking sales, St. Nicolas evenings… The money raised was usually donated to a charity or an organisation somehow connected to the organiser. These events worked perfectly, both as team buildings and as fundraisers at the same time.
Are we there yet? No. And now…? Nope.
As the company continued to grow, our Managing Director started being approached with the same repeated question from our employees, investors and external people: “Can we start an official CSR program?” For quite a significant period of time, her answer has been “not yet”. And that makes sense perfectly. These were times, when Kiwi.com was experiencing exponential growth which was awesome, but on the other hand it was making the company extremely fragile. We were literally taking it one day at a time, because nobody knew what the next day would bring (the fact we actually enjoyed this is another story).
Point 0 – We’re there!
The funny thing about long awaited moments is the fact they usually catch you utterly unprepared. This was our case. It felt like we were standing on a green meadow with the instruction to build a house. Where do you start? What do you do? And where do you find the confidence to reassure yourself that you approached the project in the right way? The CSR field is a minefield. Those who are a bit familiar with the topic know this pretty well. There have been numerous examples of projects meant to cause a “greater good” that went horribly wrong. The path towards efficient CSR is covered with corpses of do-gooders.
Stage 1 – Speak to the wise people
Following Hermione’s example, we went to the library. At the moment, there are 105 various CSR platforms, organisations and guidelines that all can help you become socially responsible and report on it, including UN Global Compact, CSR Europe, Global Reporting and others. We read all of the guidelines, spoke to some experts and in the end came to the conclusion that this doesn’t fit who we are. While all of these materials are extremely detailed and dig really deep into what your business goals are and prompt you to run an ethical analysis of all the key stakeholders, we felt this is not what needs to be done in our case. The reason is that while we are a global business, our current company size provides a reasonably clear view of what’s happening with our stakeholders, where the potential risks are and what the impact is. However, it was definitely good to find out what the future direction might be, because scalability is something you should always aim for.
Stage 2 – Let’s see what we’ve got
Conducting an initial audit makes sense. There is no good in donating money to an ecological initiative while not knowing how much energy your operations eat up. We basically collated a few methodological perspectives on how to do this – like the standard triple bottom line (ecological, social and economic perspectives), supplier audit, human rights, human resources audits and a few others. We included everything that made sense from our business perspective and took the liberty of getting rid of the steps that seemed too formal, irrelevant or just empty. We ended up with a list of things that needed to be fixed before we could even think about organising anything extra. Just to give an example – one of the minor findings was the fact that while Kiwi.com went crazy about recycling, our property manager actually disposed all our assorted refuse into general waste.
Stage 3 – What CSR means to us
In the next stage, it was important to formulate what CSR as such means to us. Here is what we discovered.
CSR is (from our point of view):
- thinking before acting; being aware of the fact that our actions have an impact on a global scale as well as on a local one
- trying to do our best to balance the harshness of complex systems, while helping to build a fair and healthy environment for everyone
- not being a moron
What’s important to us:
- A built-in approach. CSR is not a bandwagon, the most important thing is to think and act ethically in everyday operations.
- Ethical egoism is a no go. The motivation behind our actions should be a true belief in their relevance.
- Planners vs. searchers. No need to create huge projects as every large-scale trouble has its root cause in small things around us that can be influenced much more easily.
- Explorers & dreamers. We love giving people a chance to do great things and Care.kiwi.com is not only about addressing issues, but also about giving opportunities.
Stage 4 – Clear, but embracing
With the basic manifesto in place, it was actually really easy to conclude what needs to be done. Even during the audit, we found out (and this is something we’re really proud of) that a great deal of what’s been done within the company has been done ethically without a CSR policy in place. And this was definitely the most encouraging conclusion – if you have the right people in the business, you don’t really need a CSR guideline to help them understand what’s good and what’s bad. A thoughtful HR Director will think about family friendly policies. An experienced Facilities Director will enforce an ecological program. All you need to do when you’re a middle sized company is to monitor the system risks and provide something extra so the employees can run wild with their ideas on how to do good. To support these extra activities, we allocated a budget and came up with focus areas that mirror who we are, what we’re good at and what’s important to us. And that was the moment when Care.kiwi.com was born. The important condition was to have a clear direction, however at the same time, enough flexibility to react to what’s happening around us.
Stage 5 – Onboarding the crew!
With our areas of focus in mind, we needed to draft some processes (yes, we do have processes in Kiwi.com). While we wanted all the employees to have the possibility to submit their ideas of projects that could be supported, we needed a decision making body. This is how our Care Crew, representing the voice of Kiwi.com employees, was established. Currently, it has five members who drive all the ongoing initiatives. The very first call for projects took place at the beginning of 2017 and since then, several projects have had their support.
Stage 6 – Watch and learn
Now, it’s important to note that what we have in place is definitely just the starting point. What we have right now is the vision, some good being done in the name of the company, basic partnerships set up and some processes and controlling in place. Most importantly, the discussion about the topic is open and ongoing which makes everyone more sensitive to potential CSR risks, but also possibilities. There’s much more that can be done so let’s see where the future takes us!