The Building Society Association has launched its second report into corporate social responsibility in the building society sector.
The report, Societies in Society, examines CSR activity across a whole sector, rather than the activity of an individual firm.
The main findings show that building societies have increased their CSR activity in the last three years, compared to a similar survey conducted in 2002.
Given the fact the fact that societies are diverse in their size and location, there are different approaches to CSR, but areas where societies are increasing activities include supporting employees in charitable work, involving members, introducing written policies, taking environmental action including green travel, and looking closely at the ethics of their supply chain.
Supporting local communities has always been an important part of societies activity.
Increasingly societies are recognising the importance of this activity to employees, and the benefits that can be realised from supporting employees in fundraising and volunteering opportunities.
The majority of societies – 66% – take action to support employees’ charitable commitments, compared with 30% who did so in 2002.
While societies have always recognised the importance of providing a good service to members, over the last three years great steps have been taken to involve members more in the operation of the society, encouraging feedback and AGM attendance.
In 2002, 70% of societies took steps to enable members to share their views, while 20% took steps to encourage AGM attendance.
In 2005, 93% are supporting members in sharing their views, and 63% taking specific actions to encourage attendance at AGMs.
Most societies have written policies on corporate governance, health and safety and employee development.
Larger societies are much more likely than smaller ones to have policies on community investment, environmental management and diversity.
24% of societies now have a written policy on their approach to managing environmental impacts, compared with 2% in 2002.
Environmental action has increased, with greater percentages of societies now taking steps to reduce energy use and promote recycling.
Green travel is an area where there has been an increase in activity since 2002.
Larger societies, however, are more likely to have the resources available to provide facilities like bike racks and showers to promote alternative forms of transport for employees.
This is reflected in the percentage of larger societies taking some action in this area (90%).
As well as managing direct impacts on communities and the environment, it is becoming increasingly common for organisations to consider the impact of activities within their supply chains.
This can be a complex area to address, but almost two-thirds of societies are taking some form of action, such as only buying fair-trade and recycled products.
Amongst larger societies, 90% are taking action which again may be a reflection of greater resources.
Adrian Coles, director-general of the BSA, says: “Building societies have always had one focus, delivering good products and services to members, whilst contributing to the sustainability of the communities from which their members are drawn.
As such, CSR activity, before it was called that, was at the core of their ethos and values.
“Even though the business case was long established, even for smaller organisations, there had been little formal reporting.
Since our first survey in 2002, societies have become more organised and are consolidating their activities.
This is especially noticeable in managing environmental responsibilities and in improving interactions with members, as well as reporting.”