Eileen Rivera

COMMENTARY

4 reasons you should care about social responsibility

As 2011 came to a close, government contractors were working around the clock to write winning proposals, respond to requests for proposals and submit task order solicitations in an effort to bring in year-end revenue before the books close on Dec. 31.

But many government contractors also began work on another important goal: Developing, defining and implementing corporate social responsibility programs for 2012.

A sound CSR program may be more important now than ever. As the Washington Post reported recently, professionals born between the 1980’s and late 1990’s who are now entering the workforce “are bringing their values into the career equation by placing a premium on employers’ reputation for social responsibility and the opportunities those companies and organizations provide their employees to make a positive impact on society.” If you want the best talent, a strong CSR program is important.

Why has social responsibility become so important for government contractors? Here are four reasons:

1) Plain and simple: It’s smart business. Government contractors are beginning to see the connection between giving back to their communities, investing in important causes and increased revenue and greater brand value. In fact, CSR moved up the corporate flagpole among many government contractors in 2011.

ICF International created a Corporate Responsibility Steering Committee in 2011 that reports directly to the chief operating officer. This year, the company voluntarily reported its activities ‘in the spirit of transparency.’ ICF clearly sees the connection between CSR and increased brand value which the company measures “as a high percentage of repeat business, a high employee retention rate, and recognition from our communities, clients and industry.”

The Washington Post article mentions IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, launched in 2008, which has deployed 1,200 IBM employees to more than 20 countries. IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano stated at the program’s founding that “we fully expect [this] will make IBM a more competitive and successful business.”

2) Your customers treat you differently when you care more about just winning contracts. When you start seeing taglines like “Responsibility is our business,” you know social responsibility has become more than just a fad. Deloitte touts on its website, “with responsibility comes the privilege of leadership, sustained by the public trust.”

Another example is Booz Allen Hamilton, which has maintained a deep and long commitment to the nation’s military community including the Department of Defense, the Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs through its work with disabled veterans and wounded warriors.

As a result, Booz Allen enjoys a strong relationship and robust business with the armed services, veteran and military communities. In 2011, Booz Allen was honored for its support of businesses owned by veterans for the seventh consecutive year and was named one of the 10 Best Corporations for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. Now these are important credentials which government customers notice.

3) Your best employees want to work for and be associated with a company that cares about something other than just making money. Whether it’s SRA International’s tenth consecutive ranking by FORTUNE Magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work, or Booz Allen’s repeat ranking by FORTUNE Magazine as one of the top 100 companies for working mothers and its top-10 ranking by Business Committee for the Arts for its support of the arts in America, your best employees want to work for a company they can brag about to their families, customers and teaming.

Even small businesses like SBG Technology Solutions invest in social responsibility. The Alexandria, Va.-based government services provider has been a leading charitable funder and advocate of type 1 (juvenile) diabetes research worldwide.

Buccaneer Computer Systems and Services, a small business before it was acquired by Vangent in 2010 and subsequently by General Dynamics in 2011, is a frequent recipient of the CARE Award and has a robust social responsibility program. The company actively supports the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital for children’s cancer research and Operation First Response which provides aid and assistance to wounded American soldiers, to name just a few.

The Washington Post article noted that, “(e)ven as the economy has slowed, companies are expanding volunteer programs because these programs attract, develop, motivate and retain the most dynamic and passionate employees. The most innovative of these companies also understand these programs as critical to their bottom line.”

4) The investor community gets it. A 2009 Thomson Reuters study showed that 82 percent of investors evaluate environmental, social, and governance criteria as part of their investment decision.

So, it’s no surprise that companies like ICF International, which prides itself in ‘accountable relationships’ and ‘sustainable solutions’ with its employees, customers and shareholders, is bold about its commitment to CSR. It proudly states on its website: ‘Shareholder value is influenced by trust, reputation, and relationships. Investors know there is a link between responsible corporate citizenship and long-term value.’

While at Vangent, which was owned by Veritas Capital, I communicated to investors the importance of supporting disabled veterans and wounded warriors and how that support translated into new business opportunities with the Military Health System.

For seven consecutive years, Vangent sponsored the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colo. And over those seven years, Vangent’s business with the Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs more than tripled.

Now there’s a good return on investment.

About the Author

Eileen Cassidy Rivera is former vice president of communications and investor relations at Vangent, a General Dynamics company. She is now vice president of marketing and communications with Cognosante. She can be reached at eileen.rivera@cognosante.com.

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