Doing the right thing

What is corporate responsibility and what do people who have those two words in their job title actually do? Francesca Campbell, RSA’s corporate responsibility project manager, talks us through her to-do list and explains why CR is everyone’s responsibility

Thanks for chatting with us, Francesca. To help set the scene, can you tell us about how you ended up working in CR?

Around eight years ago, I was working in a trainee PR role for a construction company when I was asked to help set up their corporate foundation. It was a very conventional fundraising arrangement with a well-known children’s charity, but it quickly grew to include more community support focused elements. After that I moved to the financial services sector, eventually landing at RSA just under a year ago.

What does CR mean to you?

Companies have a huge impact and influence. So for me, CR is all about helping the business I work for act responsibly so their impact is a positive one.

More and more, people are deliberately seeking out products and services from businesses that do the right thing. So for businesses and their leaders, it’s no longer just about making money. It's about treating your employees and the communities that you serve responsibly. I think that’s a really great thing.

RSA was among the first insurers to sign the Inclusive Behaviours Pledge — an industry-wide initiative to change workplace culture, stamp out discriminatory behaviour, replacing it with inclusive and tolerant practices.

So there’s more to CR than organising fundraising then?

Yes! The social elements of CR - philanthropy, fundraising and charity partnerships - are the things that people tend to think of first. And while they’re an important element of any CR programme, there’s so much more.

Earlier this year we unveiled RSA’s new group-wide CR strategy called Confident Futures. When we were designing it, we kept asking how can we integrate CR more closely with our day-to-day business activities?

For example, we’re working with our claims fulfilment teams to lower the impact RSA’s operations have on the environment. One idea we’re investigating is making sure that if our suppliers have to take out trees in response to, say, a subsidence claim, they'll plant another tree somewhere else.

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Our Confident Futures strategy describes the responsible business practices into our everyday operations and ambition to help people manage risks with greater confidence.

So what does a typical day at work look like for you?

It varies a lot! On any given day we could be writing a report for the Board, hosting a conference call with our CR counterparts in our regions, meeting with our community partners, advising a part of our business that wants to be more community focused or preparing a response for a CR index or investor request.

We also look at legal requirements for our business like modern slavery and human rights acts. It's our responsibility to make sure that issues like these receive attention from our Board and executive teams.

To do that, we help convene RSA’s CR committee which is chaired by our UK CEO, Scott Egan, and meets five times a year and the environmental, social and governance (ESG) committee, chaired by our Group risk officer, William McDonnell, which meets three times a year to review things like our environmental sustainability practices and our position on ethical and environmental issues that affect the things we choose to insure or invest in.

It sounds like you need a lot energy to do all that!

Yes, you do need a lot of energy. And you need to be driven to find out how different aspects of the business works so you can have the right conversations.

What other skills and qualities does it help to have if you work in CR?

I’ll be honest. There is a lot of number crunching involved in certain areas of CR. At the moment, we’re working on our submission for the Dow Jones sustainability index - one of many benchmarking reports we have to collate and produce data for every year. Our responses get scored on our transparency and the quality of the evidence we provide, so we’re always looking for ways to improve.

Responsible business

We believe transparency is at the heart of being a responsible business.

You’re coming up to one year in your role at RSA. What’s the biggest change you’d like to make in the business?

For more of my colleagues to know what role they play in helping RSA be seen as a responsible organisation.

For example?

Well fundraising and volunteering for local causes is the most obvious way. But I think it’s more about encouraging people to question their own decisions. If you're a line manager, can you encourage your employees to find out more about the CR strategy? If you're in procurement, can you make more responsible buying decisions - buying from social enterprises or challenging the supply chain about their CR approach. Can you help reduce waste in the business? Do you need to print everything? Do you need to use plastic cups? It can all add up to a big difference.

Also, I want to help my colleagues feel confident about speaking up. If you think our company should be doing something differently, be vocal about it because if it's something we can change to make RSA better, then it's part of my job to help take up the challenge.