Corporate Social Responsibility in a Mean World

At Tech-Tav, we don’t think much about corporate social responsibility (CSR). We never had a management meeting about it. We never discussed how to align our company goals with our community activity. We never talked about how to get employees enthusiastic about working for our company by giving back to the community. We never even talked about treating humans with respect.

And yet, our management invests between 15 and 20% of any given work week to non-income-generating activities. Our CEO, Miriam Lottner, founded and runs Portraits for Charity Israel, which raises between NIS 2000 to 20,000 per month for various charities. Our CMO, Rebecca Rachmany, visits the Microsoft Accelerator once a week as a partner, providing articulation services and mentoring. Annually we sponsor the Swim for Sadna (raising over 7,000 in 2012) and this year we’re a Gold Sponsor for @Cycles for Smiles 2013 for Beit Izzy Shapira. Our staff gets involved too, running marathons, donating time within their community, walking accross the country to build homes for needy children. It’s due to their generosity that we can raise the funds for these kinds of things. To top it off, we treat both our employees and our clients with respect.

We aren’t saying this to brag.

And we aren’t doing this to get business.

Really, the ROI sucks.

There’s plenty of hype around CSR. If you give your employees time to volunteer, they’ll be happier at your company. If your company is known as a contributor to the community, it will be easier to hire great employees. If your company is good, people will feel better buying from you. What goes around comes around.

We even say some of that stuff ourselves.

If people ask us why we are partners in the Microsoft Accelerator, Digital Eve, Yazamiyot, etc., we will tell you it’s for the professional connections and to help build community and that it pays off.

We assure you, it doesn’t. Maybe long-term it does, but we don’t think so. I mean, we get calls out of the blue every week from people who remember us from 10 years ago, so you could say it’s all “good karma”.

But really, it doesn’t pay for itself. It’s not a business proposition.

And there are those days. You know those days. There’s a day when a company we work for suddenly runs out of money and lock the doors leaving us with unpaid bills and unemployed writers. There’s a day when we know 4 contracts are ending at the end of the month and we’re not sure what to do. There’s a day when a writer just isn’t delivering and we have to put in a replacement writer and take a loss on the project. There are even days when all those things seem to happen at once.

On those days, sometimes we think, what are we doing helping out other people and volunteering our time for a bunch of startups in an accelerator? What are we doing raising money for charity when we need to raise money for our business? On those days, it seems urgent to spend all of our time keeping our writers employed, and not to help a friend out, raise money, get a job for someone else. In fact, on those days, we wonder why anyone would want our advice. Twenty years in business, and here we are with the same struggles we had on day 1, except 40 times larger, with so many more people who depend on us. 

Most of our days aren’t like that, but some of them are.

On those days, we remind ourselves that our volunteer work doesn’t give us income.

It gives us life.

When we first met with Hanan Lavy at the Microsoft Accelerator, we told him our main interest in being involved was to see startups in Israel flourish. More than 80% of our business at Tech-Tav is recurring business. We have an outstanding reputation. We don’t have to work too hard to get and keep our clients. We aren’t looking to grow beyond the 40 writers we already have.

And we have plenty on our plates running this business. But the most fun we have every month is the time we give to others. There’s nothing to compare with the excitement of seeing startups get off the ground, helping new entrepreneurs avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made, raising money for people in need, and making a contribution that’s appreciated.

Corporate social responsibility is a fancy word for doing the right thing.

You shouldn’t do the right thing because it’s good for business or your reputation. You shouldn’t do the right thing because the latest management theories tell you to do the right thing. You shouldn’t even do the right thing to appease your conscience.

You should just do the right thing. It’s the only thing that gives you a life worth living.

For more information about Cycles for Smiles, Portraits for Charity, Swim for Sadna, feel free to contact us. You can also call to talk about your documentation at the same time.