Odile Cortés
Operations Director
IntegraRSE
/
View from the Top

IntegraRSE: Go Beyond Bare Minimum with Social Responsibility

By Sofía Hanna | Wed, 06/16/2021 - 14:05

Q: How does IntegraRSE help companies follow a responsible path?

 

A: Our job is to help companies understand their impact. The planet and society need companies to be socially responsible. They need companies to become corporate citizens with rights and responsibilities that benefit society. Lately, both consumers and finance systems are calling for businesses to be responsible in their activities. Companies must have quality products but they should also have quality in the business itself, which can be seen in their ethical behavior, environmental responsibilities and social benefits. We help companies think ahead, employees and customers suggest it now but soon, it will be a definite demand.

 

Q: What does it mean for a company to be socially responsible and what weight does this now have when doing business?

 

A: To be socially responsible means complying with local laws and going above and beyond them. Companies must understand their impact and incorporate social and environmental objectives alongside their commercial goals. Today, consumers and employees are more demanding and they are starting to ask companies to do more than just philanthropic approaches.

 

Q: How do you adapt your initiatives to the reality of different countries?

 

A: One of the main pitfalls for international companies is believing that a strategy that works in one country will work in others. This is not the case. For example, environmental laws in Costa Rica are stricter than in Nicaragua. So, complying with local laws means setting the bar very high in some places and very low in others. Also, communities have different demands. Donating money for dogs in a rural area is not the same as in an urban region, which might have shelters.

Most of these initiatives require dedication, time and money. These three things are important for changing the world. Some issues are clearly a priority for Latin America, such as gender equality. The key path to do impactful initiatives is to do accurate materiality assessments.

 

Q: What differences have you noticed between advising large companies and SMEs?

 

A: Small companies make decisions faster and are more flexible. If you convince the company’s leader, then it is going to happen. We’ve work with small companies that have implemented big changes in less than a week and we’ve work with large companies for three months but have been unable to start the project. At large companies, planning takes longer and projects must be approved by the legal and compliance departments. However, once a large company changes, its impact is bigger and widespread.

 

Q: In international terms, how does Mexico position itself in terms of social responsibility? 

 

A: Mexico is doing well in comparison to other countries in Latin American. The country has higher revenue, it is next to the US and works closely with that country, which helps Mexico move forward in terms of social responsibility even if by need more than will. But we are falling behind if we compare Mexico to the EU. Mexico has inequalities in gender, income, workloads and opportunities in the workplace, as well as access to healthcare. COVID-19 made the inequalities more pronounced and made it harder for us to compete with other countries. Mexico, however, has the philanthropical side of social responsibility quite rehearsed as we can see in every tragic episode we have dealt with, like 2017’s earthquake.

 

Q: How have issues such as discrimination and workplace harassment changed since companies sent employees from the office to their homes? 

 

A: Gender inequality is now a bigger problem because women were able to leave their houses before but now that they work at home, women have to deal with children and online classes besides their regular work activities. This has made inequality worse for women. There is also the matter of domestic violence as women are now trapped at home. Our responsibility as a business is to make sure that our plans benefit the people who are the backbone of our company. On the upside, now that companies see they can work from home, opportunities open for people with a disability or that could not leave their families before.

 

Q: What initiatives have you implemented to target gender inequality and wage gaps?

 

A: One of the main focuses of IntegraRSE is to increase awareness about issues related to privilege and violence. When we talk about feminism, for instance, we believe it does not apply to men. IntegraRSE aims to increase awareness that feminism also concerns men. Regarding corporate decisions, we review a company’s policies to make sure they are doing at least the bare minimum to give employees equal conditions and opportunities through measures such as lactation rooms for mothers which may be set by law but that is still a challenge for businesses. 

 

Q: What are some of the new social responsibility practices that have emerged with everyone working at a distance?

 

A: Home office is having a huge impact. Many clients refused to let their employees work from home before. They did not understand it and Mexico, in general, is not target-focused. Now, home office is a huge advantage for some companies as it allows them to be objective-oriented instead of “hours-oriented.” There are also social and environmental benefits as employees do not have to commute for hours, which is common in large cities like Mexico City and as I mentioned, helps re-think some positions in terms of talent from people with disabilities or from out of the main cities. The mental and physical health of employees is becoming more important and companies are now focusing more on psychological and risk factors.

 

 

IntegraRSE is a consulting company that provides corporate responsibility, organizational development and internal communication services.

Sofía Hanna Sofía Hanna Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst