Don’t get me wrong both the quantity and quality of aspects of sporting community engagement can be fantastic, but after a day at the Cass Business School sponsored Sport and Social Responsibility Summit I was left reminded yet again of the tunnel vision that many sport related organisations use when considering the wider Corporate Social Responsibility spectrum.
CSR isn’t just about sending educators or coaches into social groups no matter how deserving those groups are or how impressive individual projects can be. Whilst the itinerary suggested an interest packed day with speakers including the NBA, FIFA, Williams F1 and John Amaechi to look forward to, it quickly started to feel like a repetitious community project showcase.
I asked a question and made a statement about the changing role of CSR in Sport, challenging the programme notes that stated CSR was now firmly embedded in board rooms. I was taken aback by the confused faces on the panel. I agree the agenda has progressed and is definitely on more board radars, but to suggest that it is now embedded within sport business strategy and everything is rosy is plain naive. Across all business whatever their sector CSR has gained at least an occasional seat at the board table, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to keep it there, and to continue to push forwards.
For me CSR & Sport needs to be debating far wider issues such as environmental sustainability and financial transparency as a matter of urgency. Sport can provide an excellent platform to educate and inspire but only if it’s used. Too often winning on the field of play or for pure financial profit overwhelms the opportunity for greater good, just like mainstream business but only further clouded by hubris from sport’s community work.
Even so, the event highlights for me were:
Dominic Reilly from Williams F1 offering frank, yet obvious deeper commitment to the wider CSR agenda having already published their carbon emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project. I’d suggest they shouldn’t use the suggestion of carbon reducing technology creation as an argument against their obvious substantial relative energy usage, especially from their logistical operation.
James Thellusson from Glasshouse Partnership was a standout speaker, demonstrating knowledge, eloquence and sadly isolated creativity in his excellent presentation on CSR communications.
BT’s Mike Blackburn offering their embedded insight into employee engagement and their forthcoming sponsorship of the Olympics in London 2012.
1 Goal – A great concept similar to a sporting version of Bob Geldof’s G8 Make Poverty History’ campaign, this time tackling education for all children. Check it out here and sign up.
Stumbling surprisingly across Jem Bendell (lifeworth.com) for the first time to only discover his colours being of a surprising Portsmouth FC flavour and leading to an extended enjoyable lunch probing the potential of asking the UK Government to buy out the club and set a new model for fan & public ownership in football!
The MVP award of the day had to go to ex-NBA star now psychologist & consultant, John Amaechi (right), whose candour and vision was as a refreshing final keynote as there could have been. In a room mostly full of religiously devout believers in the ‘power of sport’, for John to say ‘it’s not about the ball’ and ‘sport for sport’s sake doesn’t make fat people thin, sad people happy or stupid people clever’ was an intellectual googly not anticipated by the majority of the audience. What he was really trying to convey was that it’s not sport that is the key factor, it is the process that individuals go through, usually as a result of interaction with a gifted coach or mentor possessing inter-personal skills way beyond text-book technical drills. I’m just sorry I had to duck out of John’s responses to questions early to meet a group of fellow Twitterers around the corner.
For ‘sport and social responsiblity’ it should have more accurately used ‘community projects and branding’ as a description. Alas a far too common abbreviation for CSR.