This article looks into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how businesses should operate online.

data centre

A lot is written about what businesses should do for their employees, for their communities and for other stakeholders. But is there enough focus on what businesses should do in the online world?

I talk a lot about the need for consistency in what businesses do on sustainability and corporate responsibility. It therefore stands to reason that a great deal of harmony is needed between a company’s CSR efforts in the real world and their efforts online.

Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age

I just finished reading the recently released updated version of Ogilvy on Advertising by Miles Young. I found this to be packed full of information on corporate responsibility and how brands can leverage this online.

Ogilvy on Advertising

This short article is in no way a full book review; however, I might follow up with one in due course.

There was one section in particular that caught my eye and it was a section on CSR on page 205. It goes as follows.


  1. Be extremely sensitive to anything which remotely smells of “green-washing” – of insincerely stealing the clothes of an issue.


  1. Be prepared to shock the audience into understanding that your issue is important.


  1. Have a clear ask: what do you want people to do, and, if they do it, how it will improve the issue.

I thought that these were great morals for companies to abide by online.

I mentioned before about Simon Mainwaring of WeFirst that I thought his input into corporate responsibility was highly valuable. There is also the input of someone else that I really like and that is Steve Hilton, who co-founded Good Business. Both of these gentlemen came into corporate responsibility after careers in advertising and after this latest effort by Miles Young, I think there is clearly a lot of room for professionals in this space to help improve the communications aspects of sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Back to the three rules that Miles Young has put forward, lets look at each of these in turn.

For the first rule, it cannot be emphasised how important this is. Effective CSR programmes are not cheap and a lot of good and valuable work can be undone if a company takes a foray into greenwashing and suffers the consequences in the media for it. Particularly with social media, consumers are smarter than ever and able to access information from their peers. When this is combined with well resourced NGO’s who can call out instances of greenwashing, there is really no way a company will be able to get away with it.

As far as the second rule goes, this was the rule that I was most pleased to see. Companies, particularly large companies have a tendency to play it safe and aim for the mushy middle. But that route is not only heavily congested but is also as ineffective as it has ever been. The companies that you see making headlines for their CSR programmes are the ones that are really pushing the boat out and going all in on sustainability. This has a lot of business benefits and consumers will reward you for your efforts if you go the extra mile.

The last rule is also very important. The saying that I have been pushing for some time now is that communication is the missing link in sustainability. I was writing recently about the opportunities that exist for corporate responsibility within the marketing department and you can find a link to this below.


Sustainability and corporate responsibility are complex ideas, which are interwoven with a number of wicked and not easy to solve problems. This is why they have lingered for so long. For me what Miles is trying to get at in his third rule comes down to materiality. Have you selected issues to focus on which are material and relevant to your business? If you do that, it will be a lot easier for consumers and other stakeholders to see the logic in your CSR programmes.

If you are a drinks manufacturer, you are going to want to be very strong on your water use and your plastic bottles. If you are a clothing manufacturer, you are going to want to be very strong on the labour standards in your supply chain and the chemicals in your clothing. If you are a construction company, you are going to want to be very strong on the environmental performance of your buildings and the health and safety on your building sites.

Sustainability means 100 different things to 100 different businesses. If you come from leftfield with your CSR programmes, don’t be surprised if these fail to connect with your audiences.

Also, for the last point, it really cannot be emphasised how important it is to get your customers involved in your CSR programmes. With the advent of social media this has never been easier and there is no reason why your customers, who are a key stakeholder group should not be involved online.

What you need to know

This article looked into CSR and how businesses should operate online.

We looked into three rules for digital social responsibility which were pulled out of the new Ogilvy on Advertising book by Miles Young.

The overall takeaways should be that greenwashing is highly risky, with a very small upside and the potential for a very substantial downside. That consumers are likely to reward you if you push the boat out and go all in on sustainability. Lastly, that you should pick issues that are material, be very clear with your communications and get your consumers involved in your CSR programmes online.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think responsible businesses should act online?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article considers marketing within the context of corporate responsibility. There are some who would consider marketing to be the opposite of what a responsible business should be engaged in. But this is not the case.


If marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Then it should be clear that marketing itself is not dangerous, only specific types of misleading marketing and marketing that promotes products and services that damage the earth socially and environmentally.

What is needed is a new kind of marketing that makes sustainability irresistible and causes responsible businesses to stand out.

The good news is, that there are lots of opportunities for businesses who take a creative approach to marketing their responsible business practices.

Businesses that integrate sustainability into their marketing messaging become more responsible businesses. By doing this, you can change consumer preferences and change the way an entire sector is perceived.

This of course needs to be backed up with verifiable and meaningful changes so as to not to be considered greenwash. There should not be any inconsistencies. High standards of corporate responsibility should be found throughout a company’s operations.

Responsible businesses look to develop a new kind of marketing that is distinctly different to what came before it. Let’s look into some of these aspects.

1.    Environmental impacts

In the old style of marketing, environmental impacts would not have figured in any kind of messaging. Now, responsible businesses should use the marketing channel to demonstrate their excellent environmental credentials.

For services businesses, this should be demonstrating that that they have very robust sustainability throughout their operations and supply chain.

For manufacturing businesses, this should be demonstrating that their products are manufactured using efficient processes and that during their lifecycle they will use less energy and resources than competing products. Consumers also care about the products packaging and what to do after the product is needed. The packaging should be made of recyclable material and you should help consumers to be able to repair their product if necessary.

In this regard Patagonia is clearly a leader. Making their products with sustainable materials and helping their customers to repair items. Please watch the video below, where founder Yvon Chouinard sets out how his business is distinctly different from businesses that operate a single use throwaway model.

Yvon Chouinard: Why there is no kinship between Apple and Patagonia

2.  Human impacts

Responsible businesses also take the time to demonstrate that they care about the human impacts of their organisation. Consumers care a great deal about what their money is being spent on and they have a right to know so that they can make informed decisions.

For construction companies, this would be demonstrating exceptional levels of competence in health and safety.

For manufacturing companies, particularly those using factories located in emerging markets, a lot of emphasis should be placed on labour standards. If you have gone to great lengths to ensure that the labour conditions in your supply chain are robust then you should relay this to your consumers via your marketing efforts.

A great company in this regard is Nike and you can learn more about this by clicking the link below.

Nike supply chain disclosure

3.  Cause related marketing

Cause related marketing is a great example of how marketing can be used by responsible businesses.

This is a new form of marketing where a company partners with a charity to tackle a social or environmental problem. The typical setup is that a company enters into an agreement with a charity and a portion of the proceeds from the sales is donated to the cause. The aim is to create value for the company, the charity and the consumer at the same time. This example of a win-win-win outcome is a truly special phenomenon and why cause related marketing is so powerful.

Probably the best known and most successful cause related marketing campaign is the Pampers partnership with UNICEF on their tetanus programme. This works well because of the synergies between the product and the cause. You can find out more by clicking the link below.

Pampers UNICEF Partnership

A recently announced cause related marketing campaign that caught my eye was the Xerox relationship with PrintReleaf. This will allow customers to record, track and monitor their paper usage to ensure an equivalent area is replanted in managed forestry projects. This works well as a monitoring aspect and it works even better as it has tangible benefits in helping their customers to be more sustainable. You can learn more about the partnership via the link below.

Xerox to offset customer paper footprints through reforestation platform

4.  Products as services

This is an attractive option for manufacturing businesses who are developing products with high levels of efficiency and durability.

With this option, products are leased to the customer through a pay for use arrangement. This totally dismantles the incentive for manufactures to load their products with planned obsolescence. It incentivises companies to develop durable products, that are highly efficient and that can be disassembled and recycled easily.

With a normal product distribution model, the incentive is purely to maximise the volume of sales. With a product as a service business model, it incentivises performance and rewards companies that have the most efficient offering. This allows manufacturing companies to capture the environmental and energy benefits that they pass on to their customers.

This is a marketing strategy that results in a number of benefits. The manufacturing company wins through increased sales and more reliable income, the customer wins through access to a higher quality product and the ability to pay over time and the environment wins as perverse incentives are eliminated and the most efficient producer wins.

What you need to know

This article considers marketing within the context of corporate responsibility.

We looked into how responsible businesses should integrate messaging about how they are tackling their environmental and human impacts into their marketing output.

We looked into how responsible businesses can create engaging and memorable customer experiences via cause related marketing.

We also looked at how manufacturing businesses can flip whole sectors on their head by designing their products as services.

All of the different options demonstrate that it is not marketing per se that is flawed, but rather misleading marketing that leads customers towards options that are bad for society and the environment.

It is incumbent on responsible businesses to advertise and market to their customers what a better world looks like and how they are making it possible. Through changes to their marketing strategy, responsible businesses can make sustainability desirable and gain market share as a result.

The overall takeaway is that businesses should focus on the opportunities that integrating sustainability and corporate responsibility into their marketing strategy presents.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think responsible businesses should market themselves?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into common concerns amongst stakeholders. The first part analysed the concerns amongst customers, employees and shareholders. In most businesses these will be the three most important stakeholder groups. You can find a link to the first part below.



This part looks into the concerns amongst three other groups of stakeholders. These are suppliers, NGO’s and governments.

4. Suppliers

Companies are increasingly demanding higher standards of environmental and social performance from their suppliers. This includes vigorous vetting on environmental social and governance issues. Similar to investors this is a stakeholder group where risk reduction is a primary concern.

Companies are carrying out this vetting for a number of reasons. They are doing this because of a threat to their own reputations. We are operating in a new paradigm. Before, companies were responsible for their own operations and their own workers. Now, with the proliferation of subcontracting and the rising in importance of environmental and social issues, companies are responsible for the activities of their suppliers.

Companies are also looking to work with suppliers who can help them improve their own performance. This has therefore placed an emphasis on opportunity maximisation amongst this stakeholder group. Lots of sectors are incredibly competitive and if you are not able to provide low carbon good and services, there is a good chance a competitor of yours is.

Methods such as pre-qualification questionnaires have become commonplace. This can include caveats that suppliers who reach a certain threshold of sales have accreditations such as the ISO 14001 standard for environmental management systems. Also, for industries with a history of scandals in the supply chain such as footwear and apparel, it may be required for suppliers to submit to random visits and periodic auditing to ensure compliance.

Overall, suppliers are a stakeholder group where sustainability is a primary concern and where environmental and social issues are rising in importance.

5. NGO’s

NGO’s are a stakeholder group whose importance continues to rise. There may be some hard-nosed business executives who would question whether NGO’s count as stakeholders at all. But if you adhere to the definition of a stakeholder as “a person with an interest or concern in something, especially a business.” Then NGO’s are not only a stakeholder, but a very important and influential grouping.

NGO’s who campaign on social and environmental issues perform an important watchdog function in society. Many of them possess an enormous amount of technical expertise which they can bring to bear on their particular areas of interest. They can act as a counterweight to politicians and government agencies which can fall foul to the influence of corporate lobbyists.

NGO’s can launch attacks against businesses through both the mainstream and social media. Mud sticks and it can take a great deal of time for businesses to repair their damaged reputation. NGO’s can also launch boycotts which can have a more direct impact on businesses bottom lines.

Some NGO’s take a more cooperative approach and work with businesses to help them set up roundtables to improve the social and environmental performance of particular sectors.

Overall, NGO’s are organisations that care deeply about their particular area of interest. Their concerns are primarily around avoiding greenwash and making sure that sustainability is implemented in practice and not just in rhetoric.

6. Governments

Some readers may dispute the way I have ranked governments as only the 6th most important stakeholder group. But there is a reason for this.

Governments are not monolithic. They react to the concerns of all of the stakeholder groups that I have previously mentioned.

They also wear many hats. On the one hand, governments are organisations that possess an enormous buying power and so they can influence businesses via that channel.

On the other hand, they rely on taxes which are raised from the private sector so they have an interest in ensuring a healthy and vibrant economy.

Governments are also made up of politicians who are accountable to their constituents and so they react to the concerns that emanate from the populace.

Governments also have to act upon international treaties that they are signed up to.

So, as we can see, governments are organisations with limited means but a seemingly unlimited list of parties seeking to influence their decision makers. As such they are interested in preventing businesses from inflicting social and environmental harm on society, but they also have an interest in fostering a hospitable environment for businesses to grow.

Governments can seek to influence the priorities of businesses with regard to social and environmental issues with regulations, taxation and the threat of such actions.

Overall, governments are a stakeholder group that has many contradictions with respect to sustainability and corporate responsibility.

What you need to know

This article was the second in a two-part series which looked into common concerns amongst stakeholders.

The first part looked into the concerns of customers, employees and shareholders.

This part looked into the concerns of suppliers, NGO’s and governments.

For suppliers, this is a group which is focussed on risk reduction as they need to minimise any risk that they may pass on to partners in the supply chain.

NGO’s are primarily concerned with results and preventing sustainability from being something that exists only on paper. NGO’s perform a function of holding businesses to account either cooperatively or uncooperatively.

Governments are a stakeholder group with a wide range of concerns with respect to sustainability and corporate responsibility. They are able to exact influence via a number of channels and can be a vehicle for enormous change.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the stakeholder concerns that I laid out in this article?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby



This article looks into the common concerns of three different types of stakeholders. Listening to and addressing stakeholder concerns is the bedrock of corporate responsibility.

stake pic

Stakeholders are groups who have an interest in the company. I have always found it useful to differentiate between internal stakeholders and external stakeholders as shown in the diagram below.

stakeholder diagram

The sequencing of this article is no mistake and it is based on the vision of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.

Jack Ma – Why Customer comes First

1. Customers

Customers have a range of valid concerns about the businesses that they buy goods from.

Chief among these is a lack of trust. It’s not just the major scandals such as Enron and the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout that have damaged customer’s trust in businesses. But excessive executive compensation for what in some cases is sub optimal performance has also damaged trust in businesses.

Taking a look at the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, we can pick out a number of interesting findings.

If we look at the figure below, the trust in business in the general population survey, the figure of just 52% of people trusting business is remarkably low, albeit higher than government and the media. It was interesting that the informed public figure was higher and that the number was down one percent year on year.

Trust Graphic

The figure below on the public’s expectations of CEO’s was the other statistic that really jumped out at me when I was reading this year’s Trust Barometer.

The fact that 64% of respondents said that they expect CEO’s to lead on issues and not wait to be regulated shows that we are operating in a new paradigm. The risky option is to do nothing. The safest option is to move forward with sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Business expected to lead graphic

Try and create a business that stands for and embodies noble values and live up to those values whenever and wherever your business operates. Social and environmental issues fit into this category.

With the advent of the internet and social media, customers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to access information about the social and environmental performance of businesses.

No one wants to shop at a company that they know is deliberately causing harm to the planet or its inhabitants. This sort of activity does not make your brand aspirational and can take a long time to rectify.

Customers are increasingly concerned about what went into your product to get it onto the shelf, how it uses resources whilst it functions and how easy the product and its packaging are to recycle after it is used.

Businesses should be ready to be challenged on these areas and should strive for excellence in the social and environmental performance of their offering.

2. Employees

Employees are the second most important stakeholder group and businesses should pay attention to what concerns them.

Employees are concerned about the things that they have always been interested in. This includes areas such as pay, job security, working conditions and job satisfaction. But the 21st century has seen the development of new concerns amongst employees that move beyond their historical areas of interest.

Employees are increasingly focused on the reputation of the company. This is an asset for companies such as Patagonia and Interface who draw top talent towards them. But this is a liability for companies with a bad record on social and environmental issues, who will find it hard to attract the best talent.

People also like to work for businesses who hold similar values to themselves. In many cases this will be responsible businesses who give back to communities and work to minimise their impact on the environment.

3. Shareholders

Investors are a stakeholder group with very specific concerns. Shareholders are often very concerned about how companies they have invested in operate their governance structures and they are increasingly interested in social and environmental aspects too.

Most institutional shareholders will be investors with long time horizons. They aim to commit capital with time preferences much longer than any individuals. As such, their primary concern is risk. This includes reputational risks, operational risks and social and environmental risks. These risks all have the ability to jeopardise investments and possibly lead to a loss of principal.

Other concerns include those held by practitioners of responsible investing. This small but growing area looks for a balance between financial return and social and environmental aspects. This can be in the form of screening out of negative investments or positive screening for sustainable investments.

Other investors may simply view sustainability and corporate responsibility as indicators of good governance. If businesses are willing to go far out of their way to cover matters that are not statutory, they are surely very unlikely to have any issues with legal compliance.

Overall, interest in sustainable investment and sustainable finance more broadly is an area which is not only growing but will become increasingly important going forward.

There was an article which I came across last week which impressed me and I felt really showed how important sustainable finance is. You can find a link to this below.

Did Project Drawdown miss a crucial climate solution?

I think it is empowering because we all make decisions of how to save for the future and plan for retirement. We need to see a mainstreaming of responsible investment and if that happens the impact would be enormous.

What you need to know  

This article looked into the common concerns of three different types of stakeholders.

We looked at customers, who have a very low level of trust in businesses. Sustainability and corporate responsibility can address this.

We looked at employees who are moving beyond their common concerns to evaluate whether they share common values with their employer or prospective employer.

We looked at shareholders and this is a subgroup which is characterised with an excessive concern with risk management.

Overall, these are three incredibly important stakeholder groups who responsible businesses would be engaging with and solving any problems that arise.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the stakeholder concerns that I laid out in this article?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby



This article looks into community relations. This is the second in a two-part series on community relations and why they matter to businesses.


The first part focused on the opportunities that good community relations present. You can find a link to this below.


This part focuses on the risks that poor community relations pose to businesses.

1.    Expensive clashes

If your business drifts into an antagonistic relationship with your local community, this can cause real problems.

It may be the case that your customers are located far away and for them this is not an issue, but poor community relations like this can impose real costs.

There is the possibility of legal costs brought about by lawsuits that the local community may bring against you. There is also the potential reputational damage that can be done. Even if you are successful in winning these lawsuits, many people may go away thinking that where there is smoke, there is fire.

There is also the issue of time. Time is a precious commodity that is all too often forgotten in business circles. Team members may be diverted away from their primary business functions to deal with antagonism with the community and this imposes real costs.

Some companies may be able to pull labour towards them from great distances. But most companies will depend on local labour to fill some positions. This can become problematic if your business has poor relations with the local community. People want to work for companies that they are proud to tell their friends and family about. Poor community relations impose costs on businesses by making people hesitant to work for you.

Another cost that poor community relations inflicts on businesses is that of security. This only comes to bare in extreme cases but it is a cost nonetheless. Community relations may deteriorate to such an extent that you are forced to invest in security measures such as secure parking and gates, CCTV and access controls for your buildings.

As we can see, poor community relations can impose real and tangible costs to businesses. This can be avoided by community engagement and corporate responsibility.

2.  Risk of not being welcome

We touched on this briefly last time as good community relations certainly makes relocating easier. The opposite is also true for poor community relations. Poor community relations can make relocating difficult and, in some cases, impossible.

If your business has a reputation for poor community relations, you can expect to encounter a lot of resistance if you decide to relocate or move into a new area.

This could involve many of the costs talked about in point one, but it could also spill into the political realm. Local politicians who would normally welcome businesses into their community, may choose to take the side of the local protestors if they are numerous enough.

This is particularly an issue in countries that are known to have NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome. Your business may have enough money and all of the permits in the world. But passionate local people who do not want you in the community can outlast you and your resources. The best solution is to not let your corporate reputation get to this state and to develop a reputation for excellence in community relations instead.

3.  NGO / social media campaigns

The internet has made the world a much smaller place. Social media in particular has not only shrunk timescales but democratised the media in a way that few could have envisaged.

Now everyone with a smartphone and some social media accounts can post highly critical messages, pictures and even live stream videos about corporate malfeasance that they do not like. This power is simply incredible.

I would argue that no group of organisations has been shrewder with their use of social media than NGO’s (non-governmental organisations). Environmental NGO’s have been particularly astute with their use of social media.

These environmental NGO’s are always hunting for new instances of corporate irresponsibility. Don’t let your business get caught in their crosshairs.

These NGO’s can launch pointed and highly critical campaigns against businesses that they see as inflicting damage on society or the environment. This can spin off into more mainstream news channels and become a major source of embarrassment and a major distraction for businesses.

The best strategy is to be a business that gives back to the communities in which they operate and to engage with and solicit advice from NGO’s.

What you need to know

This article, which was the second in a two-part series on community relations looked into the risks which poor community relations pose to businesses.

We looked into the real costs which antagonistic local community relationships can impose on businesses.

We looked into the possibility that businesses with a poor track record on community relations can find it difficult and, in some cases, impossible to relocate.

We also looked into the new and emerging risk that NGO and social media campaigns pose to businesses with poor community relations.

Overall, community relations matter. There are real opportunities which can be seized by businesses who take the time to give back to their communities. Likewise, there are real costs which are imposed on businesses who take from their local communities.

Smart businesses move to corporate responsibility because of the risk and opportunity framework that I have laid out in these two articles. Others move towards corporate responsibility because of a sense of moral duty. It doesn’t matter what drives you, the important thing is that you try to give back.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think are the risks that poor community relations present to businesses?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into community relations and why they matter to businesses. Some people may subscribe to the notion put forward by Milton Friedman that “the business of business is business.” But things change and this is no longer the case. Good community relations can add real value to businesses and poor community relations can impose real costs to businesses.


This article will focus on the opportunities that good community relations present

1. Build a well of good will

A big opportunity that comes with being a leader on corporate responsibility and from developing good community relations is that you can build up a well of good will. Businesses operate within society and within the environment. To be successful businesses depend on access to structures larger than themselves.


By building strong relations with the community within which your business operates, you can solve issues before they become problems.

If people know that your business is approachable and they have seen you being active in the community, they will come to you. They will come to you when there is a minor problem and hopefully you can solve that problem together.

All good businesses will at some point need to expand. That could be expanding on the same site, at a different site in the local area or at a different site in a new area. If your business has developed a well of goodwill through strong management of its community relations, this process will be a lot easier.

Issues such as the planning process can be made far easier by being active in the community. If people know you as a business of high moral standards that looks after its people, the community and the planet, they are less likely to go to extreme lengths to frustrate any planning applications that you may submit.

 2. Build a reputation for excellence

By having a top quality corporate responsibility policy and strategy, your business can develop a reputation for excellence. All businesses want their product or service to be thought of as being of the highest calibre. But community relations matter and all businesses should strive for excellence in this realm too.

Your business should look to campaign on local issues and build local partnerships.

Perhaps there is a homeless charity in the vicinity. Make sure you are there for them when they need you.

Perhaps there is a foodbank in your local area. Be there for them when their supplies are running low.

By being in the right place at the right time and serving the community within which your business exists your business can create a reputation for excellence that is far bigger than the products or services it delivers.

This allows you to build a reputation for excellence. These reputational benefits are highly valuable. They allow you to become a trusted partner in your community and they force people to see you as a giver and not a taker.

3. Build a skilled local workforce

Great companies need great workers. It has been said that we are in a global war for talent. Whether this is true or not, what is clear is that businesses succeed by recruiting and retaining the best staff.

Businesses can gain a greater control over the local labour supply by investing in training local people. Once hired, these people are likely to show greater loyalty and stay for longer than a candidate that has come from afar.

Businesses can also help out by running local CV workshops, allowing their employees to volunteer in the community and by taking students on work experience placements.

All of these activities allow your business to be a key player in building a skilled local workforce. This makes smart business sense and is good for society which is what corporate responsibility is all about.

What you need to know

This article looked into community relations and why they matter to businesses.

Businesses can use strong community relations as a hedge to build up a well of goodwill should they need to take from or place a burden on the community at a later date.

Businesses can use an astute corporate responsibility programme to develop a reputation for excellence that transcends the products or services they deliver.

Businesses can be active in the community and solve problems such as skills shortages themselves.

Overall community relations matter to businesses. They should choose to be active in their communities out of enlightened self-interest because it makes smart business sense. But they should also choose to be active in their communities out of a sense of corporate moral responsibility.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the importance of community relations to businesses?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article revolves around the life and work of a great man. This great man’s name is Titus Salt.

saltaire 3

After being exposed to information about the life of Titus Salt for the first time, it made me think differently about businesses role in society. Hopefully by reading this, I can change the way you think about corporate social responsibility.

Titus Salt was born in Morley near Leeds on the 20th September 1803. During his remarkable life he wore many hats. He was at one point a manufacturer, a politician, and a philanthropist. His greatest legacy is having built Salt’s Mill, a large and at that time highly advanced textile mill, and the accompanying village of Saltaire. Let’s look into the story of this remarkable man.

Titus Salt had good lineage. At age 30 he took over the running of his father’s business. By the time he was 40 he was a rich man. By 50 he was the largest employer in Bradford. He accumulated the vast majority of his wealth from weaving cloth.

Salt’s major contribution to this industry was his pioneering use of Alpaca wool, from which he was able to produce cloth with silk like qualities. Titus’s discovery of the cloth in a Liverpool dockyard is serialised in Charles Dickens’s Household Words. Interestingly, Dickens visited Saltaire in 1852, we shall see what other guests Titus hosted later.


The origins of Titus Salt’s desire to build his factory and the accompanying model village are unknown. There is a tradition of Yorkshire employers building infrastructure around their operations, but nothing as fine as Saltaire.

Between 1800-1850 Bradford underwent a period of rampant industrialisation. People flocked to Bradford from the countryside for jobs. The arrivals outpaced the city’s ability to provide infrastructure.

The scenes in Bradford during this period were nothing short of chaotic. Not only was this a steep period of social decline, but whist the economy boomed the environment paid a heavy price. Massive amounts of pollution, from industry and from households poured into the air, the water and into the streets. Bradford was a squalid place to live and to work.

Titus Salt had experience of living and working in Bradford between 1822-1850. He had seen first-hand what a ruinous state the city had fallen into. Perhaps Titus was driven to create Saltaire, partly out of his own benevolence towards his workers and perhaps partly out of a desire to lay down a new moral order for his workforce whilst Bradford decayed.

Woolcombing workers during this time would commonly have slept with a family of 15 living cheek by jowl in a dwelling of 2 rooms. The average life expectancy for those living in the town was a remarkable 18. The conditions do not bear thinking about, this is Dickins’s Britain. In 1849 a cholera epidemic killed 420 residents. Titus Salt had seen enough, he set out to improve the moral and religious character of the town. saltaire 2Between 1853-1870 Salt invested significant quantities of his own capital into the creation of Salt’s Mill and Saltaire. No expense was spared as he aimed to create his utopia. When the mill first opened, Salt commissioned a special railway service to take the workers to and from the city.

The facilities that Salt provided for his workers were a quantum leap from anything available for workers in the city. Titus Salt charged modest rents and for those lucky enough to be housed in Saltaire, their prospects were good. Inside the model village, there was the Saltaire Club and Institute, (pictured below) which had: a library, a reading room, a games room, a smoking room, a lecture theatre, a concert hall, a rifle range and a gym. There were also factory schools and Saltaire Hospital. Titus Salt catered for his workers in a way that few entrepreneurs before or since have. download

Saltire caught the eye of many in the Victorian age and he was lucky to have a number of high profile visits. These included Lord Palmerston, John Bright, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and ambassadors from Burma and Japan who all visited whilst Salt was alive. There have been a great many more important visits since.

Titus Salt, a man who led a remarkable life, was equally remarkable in death. Salt’s death was noted in every newspaper at the time and in many foreign news outlets as well. Special trains were run from the centre of Bradford so that those who worked for, or whose lives were impacted by Titus Salt could pay their last respects.

The mood in the local area after his passing was sombre. A great man, who had touched the lives of many, had passed. The list for his funeral was extensive. Throughout his wild and varied life Titus had been associated with and funded a number of clubs, charities and societies. These were all invited to attend. As Titus Salt passed through the town he loved for one last time, his cortege was greeted by over 100,000 spectators. This is a truly remarkable number, more reminiscent of royal funeral.

What you need to know

In his life as well as in death, everything Titus achieved was about people. It is about the people who worked for him, the people he traded with and the people who lived in his utopian model village of Saltaire. It’s about the countless people who had their life chances extended thanks to his farsightedness. He sets a very high standard, the gold standard in corporate social responsibility. He did it because it made business sense, it made social sense and it made environmental sense. We can all learn a lot from the life and times of Titus Salt.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

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