We’re in it together

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“Gender-inclusive leadership and corporate social responsibility, examined through the lens of corporate philanthropy are linked. Compared to companies without women executive leaders, companies with gender-inclusive leadership teams contributed, on average, more charitable funds”. (Data from Catalyst – catalyst.org – 2011 – and Harvard Business School Research)

Introduction
It has been said, that “women and Corporate Social Responsibility go hand-in-hand” and indeed, women can be key drivers of change in the corporate world. We need more women up top because influence from women tends to extend to matters beyond making profits, and to community matters – all towards making the world (both around us and universally) a better place. In today’s world where consumers enjoy more power of choice than ever before, consumers are more likely to choose a brand (or even switch to another brand) that promises not only to be driven by making profits, but to contributing to improving some of world’s universal problems.

CSR and Brand-building
There are various ways we can all, as individuals or companies (with clearly-defined CSR strategy), make a difference. Both private individuals or employees of a company can engage in volunteer work (eg by supporting charitable organisations), by helping to improve the environment, (eg by recycling or reducing carbon footprints) or by acts of philanthropy (eg fundraising or making donations).

The Case For Women Driving CSR
Many scholarly articles have been written about the role of CSR in empowering women, but looking at things from a different perspective, women themselves can be viewed as the gender needed most to influence and CSR initiatives. Because women, as the more disadvantaged gender, are very familiar with identifying with fighting for or against causes close to home (eg hunger and health and the environment around them).

At the grassroots level, women are more likely to be community builders – and re-builders. In times of crisis or great need, they are the gender more likely to make the most noise. For example, when it comes to finding food to survive (please see featured case study, a community response to a tragedy that occurred in London).

On 20 September, the launch event of the publication of a special charity cookbook – Together – took place at Kensington Palace, championed by HRH The Duchess of Sussex. This project is the first solo project that The Duchess has engaged in as a new member of the British Royal Family. Together is a storybook of this West London community, showcasing over 50 delicious recipes from the women of The Hubb Community Kitchen and it includes a foreword by The Duchess.

The Hubb Community Kitchen came about after the tragic Grenfell Tower incident of 14 June 2017, and was established as a place where the victims, their families and their friends could benefit from food freshly prepared by women volunteers in their neighbourhood. Such acts of altruism served not only as a way of feeding people displaced and disadvantaged by the fire, but as a way of rebuilding a community that had been broken by it. Cooking and eating together became a symbol of new hope, connecting people and a sense of home to those that were displaced from their homes which were lost in the fire. One could go as far as saying there was a hint of the celebration of life (those who survived need to eat to live).

The featured recipes are simple favourites handed down from one generation to another with flavours from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Eastern Mediterranean. For example, the Green Chilli and Avocado Dip (by Munira Mahmud), the Coconut Chicken Curry (by Aysha Bora) and the Caramelized Plum Upside-Down Cake (by Faiza Hyani Bellili). The women invite us all to use the recipes that they have shared for this good cause.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book will support the Hubb Community Kitchen in its mission to strengthen lives and communities through cooking. The aim is to keep the kitchen open seven days a week, so if you are interested in supporting this initiative, you can order a copy of the cookbook here.

Conclusion
Corporate Social Responsibility actually mirrors the kinds of actions that take place at community levels, and it is this level where women play a huge role. CSR should not be viewed solely as a corporate marketing strategy or be solely about a company’s reputation or brand purpose but equally as a local matter. Therefore the word community should be an integral part of what CSR stands for: Corporate Social Responsibility as Community Social Responsibility. CSR is typically something that starts at the head of the business but by approaching it this way, where there are still more men than women on boards, companies could be leaving out a huge chunk of helpers – women. Therefore if we have a long way to go before there are more female board members, companies would be doing their CSR more justice by having more women involved in this department, in the same way we would like to see more women having a seat on boards of directors.

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