Most of us will be aware of the efforts large companies make to demonstrate that they have a corporate social responsibility.  Lots of companies are keen to show the world that they are making a difference, be it through the supporting of local and national charities or by partnering with companies that are able to reflect similar behaviours to their own.  Within the UK insurance industry, this is no different, with examples such as RSA’s £1M donation to the RSPCA in April 2017, and Aviva’s annual Community Fund programme, which offers the opportunity to receive funding from £1,000 up to £25,000 for  important causes in the community.

Insurers do good things for our customers every day, helping them when they need us most.  But what if we could do more, helping them at times other than renewal or claim?  What if our customers saw value in insurance beyond their cover levels and premiums?  What if insurance was embraced by customers, rather than being seen as a purchase that is begrudgingly accepted?  Imagine if we got it right, where customers used us regularly, because they truly believed they and we could do good things together?

Corporate responsibility versus value creation

The concept of corporate social responsibility is not a new one, first rising to prominence in the sixties, with most corporate companies in the UK able to articulate how they are being responsible.  What is not so common is evidence of companies making the link between doing things that are responsible, and doing things that create social value for customers.  This concept of shared value creation has been subject to much recent academic study, following Porter and Kramer’s seminal work in 2006 and Harvard Business review in 2011. There is still much to understand, but the reviews highlight the shifting need for companies to spend less time thinking about doing business and doing good, and more time thinking about doing business by doing good.

It’s already happening

Within RSA, as part of our ‘think, talk and act’ strategy, we’re already tracking companies who do business by doing good, and who have in turn have found ways to engage with their customers on a much more profound level than before.  Examples include Vitality in the Health Industry, Bloom in the Energy Sector, and Lemonade in the Financial Services industry (who made social responsibility a key part of their launch message in September 2016).  Within RSA, we are already creating social change through the development of our motor telematics solutions, which should result in safer roads for years to come.

Whilst RSA and companies like Lemonade offer us clues to insurance’s future role in creating a socially responsible community, a number of key considerations need to be taken into account before you are able to deliver a proposition that is able to provide shared values on all parties.

Considerations – time for action

To deliver a compelling social responsibility programme, we recommend three key areas that should form part of the planning process.

  1. Not ‘Corporate responsibility’, but ‘Everyone’s responsibility’.

Before you agree what change you want you make happen, it’s critical to engage all stakeholders to ensure everyone is bought into what you’re trying to achieve.  Make sure you are able to identify a charity or cause that engages your staff, customers, communities, partners, brokers and suppliers.  Once in place, consider joint payment matching or volunteering to ensure continued buy-in. In addition, create accountability across the company through development of steering groups focussed on your social values alone, and hold everyone accountable for their success.

  1. Make it personal

Consider how you make the experience personal, relevant, and timely, to ensure greater levels of engagement from the activity you do.  It’s also important to ensure that the experience is relevant to your broader company strategy, to avoid any potential customer confusion over your brand and how it links to your cause.  You could argue that any cause is a good cause, but consider the impact of Cola’s initial work on supported learning inside and outside the classroom, compared to its current work on global water stewardship programs, fitness and nutrition efforts and community recycling programs.

  1. Consider all the benefits of the approach.

Don’t do it only because it feels like the right thing to do.  Do it because it also provides you with clear business benefits (we do business by doing good) and it attracts more customers, staff, and suppliers to your company.  Get it right and it will continue to positively impact how all those key relationships view you too.  Hold your chosen causes to account – understand where your money is spent, and share good new stories when they emerge to demonstrate how important it is to you.  Include measures such as customer, staff and partner net promoter score, all of which will help you to understand just how relevant your cause remains.

We would be happy to discuss any aspects of this with you.  Let’s go change the world!