It’s quite sad to think that, in today’s global society, we still need awareness days to remind the world of the need to stand up for people’s rights.  However, whilst that is the case, then ‘Human Rights Day’, observed on 10th December every year , is extremely important and a day that everyone should better understand and support.

The date commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which they followed up by passing a resolution, in 1950, inviting all States and interested organisations to observe that day of each year as Human Rights Day.

The UN says that “Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.”  The organisation calls on people to take a stand for rights and stand for more humanity asking them to “Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.”

But it’s not just at international government levels that important cause-led campaigns are a priority.

Earlier this year, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – an event attended by around 11,000 delegates from close to 100 countries, representing all parts of the creative communications industry – a recurring theme in many of the award-winning campaigns was that of having a purpose in your company’s marketing communications.

For example, one of the multiple award winners at the Festival was a campaign called ‘Fearless Girl’, created for New York investment firm, State Street Global Advisors, which involved the commissioning of a statue of girl of around 12 years old, that was placed directly opposite Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture.

The campaign was launched to tie in with the first International Women’s Day after President Trump’s inauguration in the US with the aim of promoting Gender Diversity, whilst raising awareness of State Street’s ‘SHE’ fund, which invests in businesses with female executives, among financial communities.   According to Pablo Walker, President of McCann Worldgroup Europe, although the initial idea was to place the statue in Wall Street for just one week, it has proven so popular that they now hope to keep it there for at least one year.

So why should businesses be concerned with such issues?

Well firstly, companies with a higher purpose, beyond making a profit, tend to make more money!  Simon Caulkin reported in the Financial Times about a survey titled “The Business Case for Purpose”, by a team from Harvard Business Review Analytics and the EY Beacon institute, which declared that “those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage”.  He added that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that between 1926 and 1990, when studying a group of “visionary” companies, i.e., those guided by a purpose beyond making money, they returned six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals.

This begs the question, why might that be the case?

According to Sherry Hakimi, founder and CEO of Sparktures, “a purpose mobilises people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does. An organisation without purpose manages people and resources, while an organisation with purpose mobilises people and resources. Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organisational culture. It’s an unseen-yet-ever-present element that drives an organisation. It can be a strategic starting point, a product differentiator, and an organic attractor of users and customers.”

Jo Alexander, an Associate at On Purpose said that “Organisations that put people, rather than profit, at the heart of their business are successful because they understand what motivates people: a shared sense of purpose and our desire to form meaningful relationships.”

On Purpose offers a year-long Leadership Programme in social enterprise, through a combination of work placements, formal training and coaching.  Associates build their skills and sector awareness to harness the power of business for good.  Alexander added “A work environment that allows employees to fulfil both of these needs can unleash their collective potential in a way that traditional organisations, that view their people as being simply motivated by money, status and power, cannot.”

Hakimi goes on to say that when a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the authentically purposeful company’s products, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.

This may be the case for consumers, but does having a purpose impact the business buying process too?  The language industry serves as an interesting case study in this respect.

There are tens of thousands of Language Service Providers (LSPs) offering translation, localisation, transcreation and interpreting services to clients across the world, and so finding ways to differentiate themselves in such a competitive industry can prove difficult.

However, according to Tenesoya Pawlowsky Santana, CEO at CPSL, an LSP with offices across Europe and in the US, understanding the nature of a company’s clients and business fields is part of the process if an LSP is to offer quality language services to its clients.  In fact, in many cases, CPSL is closely aligned to the vision and corporate philosophy of its clients, and Pawlowsky Santana believes that clients are more likely to choose a provider that understands their company spirit in addition to providing first-class language services.  Indeed, this is a theory backed up by buyers of language services. For example, Patrick Nunes, Global Communications Manager at Rotary International said that, whilst there is no official question about an LSP’s CSR activity in Rotary’s RFPs, the topic is something he personally wants to hear about when talking to them, whether in a formal or informal setting.

Whilst Nunes will not sacrifice attributes such as cost and efficiency in any supplier’s pitch, understanding their CSR activity could make a difference to him, particularly if it’s in line with Rotary’s vision too.

This was a view shared by Franck Schneider, Digital Communications Manager at Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), who is also responsible for sourcing translation.  Given that HUG cares for many migrants, whilst cost and quality are again important factors in understanding the offering of potential new LSP suppliers, Schneider said that not many of those he has met put CSR forward as an argument for choosing them, yet he would view it as an important one.

Many companies on the buyer side will espouse particular values or have their own CSR programme, according to Jonathan Bowring, former European Localisation Director at Canon Europe who now acts as a consultant to the language industry through his company Riversight.  According to Bowring, “Canon operates a philosophy of kyosei – ‘living and working together for the common good’.”  He explained that this encompasses society and the environment, both local and global, including the treatment of suppliers and even competitors and said that “buyers with strong value systems in place may seek to build supply chains which reflect those values, although this is often mitigated by the commercial realities of offshore pricing and the priorities of their procurement function.”

However, in Bowring’s experience, LSPs made relatively little noise about their CSR programmes, if they have them, other than a mention on their website of support for Translators Without Borders (TWB), a charity that helps non-profit organisations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services in times of great need, achieved through a global network of professional translators. But he said that “the values of a supplier have wider application than a CSR programme”. For example, Bowring wants to know how LSPs treat their own suppliers and translators.  Do they make a point of paying them fairly and on time, or are they exploited as the lowest in the food chain? He said that “the treatment of staff is another values indicator: an LSP once lost my prospective business by boasting to me in its sales pitch of the long hours regularly worked by its staff.”

Employee Fulfilment

According to Alexander, “Purposeful organisations are moving beyond CSR, which is often viewed as an initiative that is bolted onto ‘business as usual’; instead they have progressed to having a purpose that is central to and effects every part of their business.  This transition naturally happens when people in an organisation feel strongly about WHY it exists.”

So perhaps a more important reason for an LSP, or any business, to have a purpose is the impact it has on its own employees and, as Bowring puts it, “for the health of the organisation itself.”  He said that “Millennials tend to be interested in a holistic employer which lends meaning to their work. Having a corporate purpose beyond simply generating wealth may appeal to them and to others, for instance those addressing midlife questions of how to “give something back”. CSR can be highlighted in recruitment to attract the type of employee who shares the company ethos.”

Allison Ferch, Programs Director at Globalization and Localization Association agrees.  She said that “CSR or similar could be a selling point for an LSP when they are trying to attract or retain talent.  Certainly, many employees can and do appreciate a company culture that embraces social responsibility and demonstrates that in concrete ways.”

Pawlowsky Santana takes a similar view, adding that “it is proven that employees at responsible companies are happier than those at companies that pay any heed to this.”

That’s certainly the case for CPSL’s Vendor Manager, Cristina Pera, who said that the company’s community involvement with TWB makes her feel proud to work for CPSL and more connected to the company.

As well as supporting TWB, CPSL also works with First Hand Foundation, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to changing the lives of children and families around the world through innovative health and wellness programming. Pawlowsky Santana explained that, in both cases, the company is very fond of the work and programmes.  Moreover, in the case of First Hand, CPSL also happens to know the team behind the organisation, so it trusts and relates to what they do.

According to Shanna Adamic, Senior Events Manager for First Hand Foundation at Cerner Corporation, the US supplier of health care information technology solutions that set up the Foundation, they rely on the support of Cerner’s relationships, like the one they have with CPSL, to help fulfil their mission. “It’s not just about fundraising, it is about understanding that giving back is in our DNA and Cerner has provided a way to do so through First Hand Foundation. Companies like CPSL and their involvement with First Hand are essential to our growth!” she said.

In terms of TWB though, Pawlowsky Santana said that CPSL supports them because it appreciates that they have become the voice of those more vulnerable in our society.  “TWB is doing a terrific job with humanitarian international causes, and now also helps and supports the refugees, a task we really respect and one we are also very sensitive to” she said.  As a sponsor of TWB, CPSL provides annual funding for the organisation, but also seeks to collaborate further where possible, for example, in the field of interpreting.

The generous contributions made by TWB sponsors are vital to ensuring the sustainability of the organisation’s core operations and programs. However it’s the willingness of supporters to go the extra mile that its Founder, Lori Thicke welcomes.  “Often LSPs that have extra capacity will offer project management support, helping to translate hundreds of thousands of words.  We have had LSPs train our project managers, and also help fill the need for hard-to-source languages such as Rohingya, a current urgent need for the response to the refugee crisis in Bangladesh,” she said. Thicke added that of course the fun based fundraising activities that LSPs organise are important, but getting supporters interested and involved in this important work is great to see and it also helps to raise awareness of the importance of language agenda.

Pawlowsky Santana believes that that developing CSR policies and running businesses in a more sustainable way is beneficial for all sort of companies and that, naturally, it has a positive impact on corporate reputation. However, for her, it is about more than that.  She believes that “We all should contribute to building a more sustainable world. Even the smallest of office-based businesses can make substantial changes to benefit the environment.”

-ENDS-

This article was written on behalf of our client, CPSL