By Jon Tonti
Teleperformance, the customer care and technical support giant with over 135,000 employees worldwide and almost $3 billion dollars in revenues in 2011, took home the Foundations for the Future Impact Award presented at Nearshore Nexus. Teleperformance bested a competitive field of applicants in part because of its exceptional ability to transform the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts into community based grassroots campaigns with sustained local support. For companies in the Nearshore industry benchmarking their Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) program against that of Teleperformance, get ready to push the limits of CSR strategy.
The archaic criticism that CSR distracts a profit driven business has long since lost out to the Creating Shared Value model which accepts corporate success and social welfare of the local community as interdependent. The Foundations for the Future Award, born out of collaboration between Nearshore Executive Alliance and Nearshore Americas, aims to raise awareness about the important influence of CSR in the Latam outsourcing industry. “Corporate Social Responsibility is increasing in its global recognition and value, so with the award we (Nearshore Executive Alliance and Neashore Americas) want to drive that awareness throughout the Latam region to an even greater extent,” says Steve Rudderham, Vice President of Global Transition at Capgemini and main organizer of the award.
Employee Engagement: Key Factor
The approach of Teleperformance’s CSR initiatives precisely designed for the communities which they target and launched in conjunction with local organizations and employees seemed to nudge Teleperformance past other finalists Johnson and Johnson, Neoris, and Transactel all with very impressive CSR programs. “We looked for a much greater impact on the Nearshore environment. We are impressed by how engaged Teleperformance employees are in their CSR efforts and how Teleperformance develops grassroots campaigns that also focus on building the future workforce,” revealed Atul Vashishta, Founder and Chairman of Neo Group and author of several books including Outsourcing Wisdom.
The award focused on the three areas of impact, environmental, community, and sustainability. Teleperformance was well positioned with two distinct prongs to its CSR program Citizens of the World (COTW) and Citizens of the Planet (COTP) formally launched in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Teleperformance seeks a holistic approach with COTW, efforts range from just making sure infants and children survive to adulthood to programs that help those same adults climb the career ladder. “We want to enable impoverished individuals to reach their potential and self-actualize,” Mark Pfeiffer says casually as if catapulting an impoverished individual to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs were some small task. Citizens of the Planet has received recognition for a particular aspect of the program; Teleperformance measures the carbon footprint of its employees in all of its 49 countries of operation.
When asked about the importance of measuring the carbon footprint of each employee Pfeiffer mention that “it is part of an education effort that touches suppliers, employees, and landlords. We are trying to influence pertinent audiences because the impact extends every which way. If the target audience is employees for example, their families can attend the education session.” Pfeiffer stressed the importance of integration of employees into a company’s CSR efforts, “The employees volunteer beyond their core job functions and it allows them to take on leadership roles. It increases respect among employees, reduces attrition, and localizes the CSR effort. It almost brings tears to your eyes because you are so proud of them.”
What surprised Nearshore Americas most was what Vashishta had to say about the impact that CSR may have on buy-side players in the near future. “As of right now it is probably a 5% factor for a buy-side player, but it is on the rise and I think it may become a 20% factor within five years’ time.”
Impact on Competitiveness
Firms like our finalists are careful not to flaunt their impressive CSR records and they know it is not just a nice thing to do and instead the right thing to do, but is anybody taking notice and does it really make an impact on a firms competitiveness? Vashishta, a 20 year outsourcing professional veteran has noted the changing CSR influence, “Employees care about companies that care; companies with strong CSR attract better employees and reduce attrition. Governments also care and the working relationship of a foreign firm and the government where that firm does business can be facilitated by robust CSR efforts.” What surprised Nearshore Americas most was what Vashishta had to say about the impact that CSR may have on buy-side players in the near future. “As of right now it is probably a 5% factor for a buy-side player, but it is on the rise and I think it may become a 20% factor within five years’ time.”
Why? Vashishta and other experts we talk to affirm that good (and increasingly pragmatic) CSR operations are increasingly focused on workforce development that directly impacts the long-term viability of a Nearshore site. This important CSR works with the local government and institutions in the target region to make sure local high schools and colleges are graduating prepared workers so companies can spend less on basic training. It also makes continuing education available so workers careers don’t stagnate and they can move on to fill more diversified and higher valued added jobs and brings those from the lowest economic strata into lower-level BPO jobs so wages rates for those lower level jobs remain sustainable for buyers.