Each year the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility undertakes research into the best performing organisations in respect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Australia. And each year the list is packed with the best known names in the land; ABC, National Australia Bank, PwC Australia and Rio Tinto to mention a few. For the last 5 years the name Arup has appeared on the list.
As a consequence I have been invited to speak at the Measuring & Managing Corporate Social Responsibility conference later this October about Arup’s approach to CSR. In starting to prepare for my talk I went back to the primary record of the philosophy of the company – the ‘Key Speech’ written and delivered by Sir Ove Arup in 1970 – a document that all new starters at Arup are presented with even today. I’ve picked out some highlights, which I’ve shared below. Every time I read the speech I am struck by how it describes a set of principles that are so obviously good and right and yet so few organisations seem to live by them.
The fact that Arup is a remarkably successful organisation by any measure supports the argument that CSR is ‘a good thing’. What is important though is that these ideals need to go to the heart of what the business is all about and not be grafted on as an afterthought.
“We must strive for quality in what we do, and never be satisfied with the second-rate.”
On Being Humane
“The humanitarian attitude, leads to the creation of an organisation which is human and friendly in spite of being large and efficient. Where every member is treated not only as a link in a chain of command, not only as a wheel in a bureaucratic machine, but as a human being whose happiness is the concern of all, who is treated not only as a means but as an end.
Humanitarianism also implies a social conscience, a wish to do socially useful work, and to join hands with others fighting for the same values.”
“The trouble with money is that it is a dividing force, not a uniting force, as is the quest for quality or a humanitarian outlook. If we let it divide us, we are sunk as an organisation – at least as a force for good.”
“Unless we have a ‘mission’ –something ‘higher’ to strive for – unless we feel that we have a special contribution to make which our very size and diversity and our whole outlook can help to achieve, I for one am not interested.”
“Our aims are the only thing which holds us together, and because it is not enough to approve them, we must work for them – and the leaders must be prepared to make sacrifices for them.”
On Staff Retention
“Why should a really good man, a man – or woman – who can get a job anywhere or who could possibly start out on his own, why should he or she choose to stay with us? …He is not mainly attracted by the salary we can offer – although that is of course an important point – but by the opportunity to do interesting and rewarding work, where he can use his creative ability, be fully extended, can grow and be given responsibility. If he finds after a while that he is frustrated by red tape or by having someone breathing down his neck, someone for whom he has scant respect, if he has little influence on decisions which affect his work and which he may not agree with, then he will pack up and go. And so he should.”
On the Virtuous Circle
“If the right kind of people feel at home with us, they will bring in other people of their kind, and this again will attract a good type of client and this will make our work more interesting and rewarding and we will turn out better work, our reputation and influence will grow, and the enthusiasm of our members will grow.”
On Respect and Pride
“If we can reach a stage where each man or woman is respected for the job they do, and is doing his or her best because the atmosphere is right, because they are proud of what we are and do and share in the general enthusiasm, then we are home.”
You can download and read the whole thing here: http://publications.arup.com/Publications/O/Ove_Arups_Key_Speech.aspx
Andrew Pettifer is speaking on ‘Developing & sustaining a values based culture’ at the Measuring & Managing Corporate Social Responsibility conference this October – book your place by August 28th to save $200. Follow Andrew on twitter @andrewpettifer