The ROI of CSR is More than Dollars, it’s About a Sense of Community

Echidna with a computer with Digital Echidna logo

Tonight a few Echidnas will be “attending” the Pillar Community Innovation Awards, celebrating some of those individuals and organizations who have made a positive community impact in our home town of London, ON. Community involvement holds a special place in our heart -- both individually and as an organization -- and events like this offer us an opportunity to reflect upon what we do. 

And, most importantly, why.

As you know, Digital Echidna is in a period of transition. We’re currently in the midst of merging our operations with Northern Commerce, which acquired the company a few months ago. But there are other behind-the-scenes things that we’ve been looking at. Organizationally, we have been evaluating what Corporate Social Responsibility means to us, how it should evolve, and where we can have the greatest impact.

Traditionally, we’ve preferred to play a background role in our CSR efforts. Our role has not been to highlight Echidna’s involvement, but rather amplify the efforts of the organizations we support by lending our resources (both financial and physical) to the causes we’ve embraced. Our belief has been that we have an amazing collection of talent, knowledge, and experience, and sharing those can have a dramatic impact on the organizations we support.

But being in the background doesn’t mean we haven’t been noticed. And, honestly, while the recognition has been greatly appreciated (multiple CSR awards, media coverage, recognition in the accessibility community, including the David C. Onley award for leadership), it’s always made us feel slightly uncomfortable.

Those of us involved in CSR at Echidna have never wanted it to be about us -- we’ve wanted the focus to be on the organizations and causes we’ve chosen to support. But we’ve reluctantly warmed to the idea that we have a responsibility to be standard-bearers for the cause of CSR and help provide other organizations with an example of how you can combine commerce with a commitment to community.

When we’ve accepted awards in the past, or been recognized for our efforts, it’s always come with humble appreciation, but also a sense that maybe we weren’t the best choice. I’ve had the honour to work with, and in some cases lead, a number of benevolent organizations and committees, and I know first-hand that there are far more people far more worthy of any recognition I’ve received. I am well aware that I have the benefit of opportunity (afforded to me by a wonderful company that sees the value in CSR) and a platform. But there are so many others that toil in the trenches, doing the hard work, day-in-and-day out, who don’t get the recognition. Nor do they want it -- they’re supporting a cause because it’s who they are and it’s what they want to do.

That’s part of our evaluation of our CSR efforts. How do we support those within our organization that have a passion for community and a desire to make a difference? And how do we balance desire with reality -- because, unfortunately, there are limitations to resources. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions to say no to a cause. It’s not only about creating a structure to evaluate opportunities, but also establishing the framework around which those decisions can be made. What are our priorities? Where can we make the most impact? 

And that’s where the ROI of CSR comes in. But unlike most ROI measures, it’s not all about the dollars and cents -- it’s about what makes sense for the organization and how can we improve not only the lives of those we choose to impact, but also the lives of those who work for us.

Because that’s the true ROI of CSR. Corporate social responsibility is about community -- and part of that is fostering a community wherein employees can feel proud about its efforts, engaged in the opportunities that present themselves, and empowered to make a difference. 

I think we’ve done a great job fostering a workplace environment that isn’t just about punching in and punching out, but rather one that allows people to be passionate about the work they do, and feel a sense of ownership and pride. We are proud to be a caring company, both in name and in action. And maybe we can’t do more -- but maybe we can do better. 

That’s why events like tonight’s Pillar Community Innovation Awards resonate so much with us. It allows us to learn from others about new ways to make an impact, it allows us to evaluate what we’re doing and how that can improve, and it allows us to celebrate a community that cares. 

And, yes, we are celebrating individuals or organizations, but we’re also keenly aware that those who get to hear their name called are only part of the story. We’re also celebrating the hundreds of people behind the scenes who don’t get to (or want to) attend galas, who don’t get to make a speech, and who don’t receive public recognition for their efforts.

But they’re the people who deserve to hear that the most. So as we’re clapping and celebrating tonight, know that we’re doing so for you!




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