christmas present

Traditionally with the onset of the festive season, our focus at Pareto Law turns to the real meaning of Christmas - giving, not receiving. I’m not just talking about buying a few reverse Advent calendars (terrific though they are), but a company-wide drive to raise money. This year our chosen cause was Family Action, a charity that helps those in poverty with emotional, financial and practical support.

Inextricably tied to law, business ethics and altruism, corporate social responsibility manifests itself in many different ways. In 2016, the Co-op donated more than nine tonnes of food to charity, food that would otherwise have gone to waste - an example of good CSR.

Bad CSR practice, however, can do a great deal of harm. In 2015, Volkswagen installed software in diesel vehicles that lessened emissions - but only when the cars were tested. Proudly claiming environmental responsibility, VW’s only real concern appeared to be increasing its bottom line. The scandal was uncovered, and the company found itself in turmoil. The trick to a good CSR initiative is to ensure that it dovetails with the ethos of your business, that it benefits the community as well as the company and that it is not treated as a marketing ploy.

We managed to raise over £10,000 for Family Action this year. As part of our annual drive, we split the company into teams and encouraged competition - which ties in well with the sales industry in which we sit. From eating competitions and pop-up Christmas markets to charity cold calling days, my teams employed a variety of creative means to raise money. Scheduling an inordinate amount of meetings on our cold calling day, the spirit of charity positively affected our business - a welcome shot in the arm given the amount of working days lost in December and the common objection of budgets not being decided until the new year.

CSR is too often used as a panacea for image problems suffered by companies, used to combat bad press without contributing anything meaningful to society. I am of course pleased that, annually, the spirit of charity helps us to meet tightening deadlines as the end of Q4 approaches. The real pleasure I get, though, is derived from the knowledge that we are helping those less fortunate - and giving something back to the community.

Jonathan Fitchew is CEO of Pareto Law