Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are broad concepts with many facets. The different definitions used for CSR have grown closer together in recent years. The most widely used approach is Triple P – People, Planet and Profit – that provides a basis on which businesses, government agencies and NGOs can implement their programmes. The term ‘sustainability’ is also being used more often as a peg on which to hang CSR-related activities. However, the dual meaning of the term ‘sustainability’ can give rise to confusion among consumers.
We recognise in our vision the definition of CSR preferred by MVO-Nederland, the Dutch CSR platform. Striving for both profit and continuity is perhaps the ultimate form of corporate social responsibility: if our company ceased to exist, our employees would have no jobs, our suppliers would have fewer customers, our customers would have fewer suppliers, our shareholders would have no shares and the government would have less tax revenue.
We seek to achieve this objective by focusing primarily on the customer. The customer always comes first, because the customer enables all the other stakeholders to benefit. While pursuing this strategy, we must continue to generate an attractive return for shareholders, fulfil our corporate social responsibility and provide development opportunities for our employees. We enable our suppliers to grow sales of their products and introduce new products. Society benefits from growing employment and rising tax revenue. We strive to reduce our environmental impact by taking full account of the environment in our purchasing procedures and agreements and our investments in property, plant and equipment. Corporate social responsibility is a key consideration in decision-making based on our strategy – not as an end in itself, but because it is essential to sustaining profitability and preserving continuity.
Some years ago, we set out our vision of CSR in a document entitled ‘Van rationaal moeten naar emotioneel willen’ (From rational necessity to emotional preference), in which we made it clear that, for Sligro Food Group, corporate social responsibility is the latter, not the former, based on many years’ striving to build long-term relationships with our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.
We are still convinced that long-term relationships enhance the quality of cooperation, engender trust and make working together more pleasant. Long-term relationships generate a good return and provide a strong basis for continuity. We believe that corporate social responsibility is an appropriate form of cooperation based on emotional preference. From rational necessity to emotional preference is also a theme that fits well with the stage we have now reached: the transition from consciousness-raising to practical implementation. As thinking about the CSR implications of decisions and wanting to make the right choices becomes second nature within the organisation, corporate social responsibility is increasingly assuming a permanent place and becoming established within the group.