Chris Williams-LilleyThe rail industry is already gripped by sustainability, with Network Rail, the Department for Transport and others including CSR in new tenders – with a relentless mantra for infrastructure providers to develop new and better ways of delivering projects that tackle economic, social and environmental issues head on.

To put it into some context, the UK construction industry (to which the rail industry contributes) is vast. Its output is worth £100 billion a year. It accounts for 8 per cent of GDP and employs 2.1 million people. Hence the compelling need for Toc’s to review good sustainability and work ever more closely with customers to build sustainability into supply-chains.

Despite the economic woes seen over the past five years, many UK companies continue to remain deeply committed to CSR, with a growing number of annual reports detailing triple bottom line growth (profit, people and planet). SME’s are the lifeblood of our communities and key to economic growth, so it’s particularly heartening to see how smaller businesses are demonstrating that corporate responsibility isn’t solely the preserve of large corporates.

Some organisations may think that CSR is a peripheral issue for their business and that customer satisfaction is more important for their shareholders. They may imagine that customer satisfaction is only about price and service, but they fail to recognise that important changes are taking place right now, because with the introduction of the Social Value Act 2012, sustainability is about to get teeth.

Explore advances in sustainable procurement

In order to overcome fundamental issues and challenges, it is necessary to gain a greater awareness about CSR principles. Once you understand those you should align your strategic goals to those of your most valued customer (taking on the buyer’s perspective) – follow this advice and make your own CSR initiatives more relevant and more effective. If the procurement of your products or services contributes to the accomplishment of the customer’s vision it’s a win/win situation.

Go far beyond the boundaries of your company and explore advances in sustainable procurement throughout your supply-chain. A process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a wholelife cost basis – in terms of generating benefits to society and the economy, while minimising damage to the environment. Does this sound familiar – CP5?
The emergence of both BS8903: Procuring Sustainably and BS 11000: Collaborative Working in recent years does seem to call for a more integrated approach to business, with a focus on meeting sustainability challenges globally.

Recently, Business in the Community (BITC) a global leader in CSR advocacy, whose president is The Prince of Wales – responded to the UK government’s call for views on CSR; supporting the approach that government has taken yet calling for greater alignment with internationally recognised principles and policy approaches that support social value initiatives. Quite a bold statement!

Looking to the future

As an official ambassador for BITC in the rail industry, rail business change consultants, Rail Champions, is delighted to contribute to a new Social Value Forum, where business leaders can discuss CSR challenges and issues surrounding social value strategy implementation.

We think of the way forward like a car windscreen. It’s quite large. We are able to see a lot out of it. The rear view mirror is pretty small in comparison. It allows us to look behind us…but we only see the past.
Look at your business strategy as the way you look through your car windscreen. The windscreen represents the present and the future. These are the most important and critical things to examine and to consider. You can change the present and the future but you can’t do anything about the past, except to change the way in which you view it.

Our focus is on the present and the future goals for CSR in the rail industry, and this occupies the largest part of our thoughts. Don’t look to the past and how it may have been done before, you’ll soon be left behind.

Chris Williams-Lilley is founder and managing director of rail business change consultants Rail Champions.
Twitter: Inspire greatness (@RailChampions)