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The ins and outs of implementing a CSR strategy

It’s not just big firms that can benefit from a CSR strategy, smaller agencies can also adopt successful policies

Vernon Kay joins Reuben’s Retreat at the Travel Counsellors headquarters
Vernon Kay joins Reuben’s Retreat at the Travel Counsellors headquarters

“CSR can align and help drive your business strategy, and it is getting more and more airtime in the boardroom as a fundamental business practice to building long-term growth and success."

CSR, or corporate social responsibility, may sound like a daunting prospect to a small business trying to keep profit margins in check while also providing a high standard of customer service.


The size and scope of an organisation needn’t dictate the positive impact it can have on clients, colleagues and local communities, however. A CSR policy is simply a set of goals for a business to work towards and can range from improving the environment to helping charitable causes or focusing on employee engagement and satisfaction.


While some say that CSR policies distract from a business’s main goal of profitability, others argue that a focus on this form of ethical business model actually increases economic gains.


“Paying close attention to the concerns of your customer base, and taking the time to understand the issues that are close to their hearts, poses a significant opportunity to create and deliver a CSR strategy that has commercial value,” advises Victoria Fox, Travel Counsellors’ global head of communications.


CSR initiatives can also provide positive internal and external PR for your agency, according to David Forder, head of marketing at Advantage Travel Partnership.


“Depending on the initiative, there will likely be newsworthy content that can be used to share the story of what the CSR goals and achievements are,” he says.

Learning from the big guns

Larger travel organisations, such as Advantage, have learned that starting small is often the key to success.


Beginning internally with the wellbeing of your people can be a good place to begin, says Forder. “We now have three people trained as mental health first aiders and have run numerous ‘lunchand-learn’ sessions on how to deal with stress, eat well and exercise properly.”


Other initiatives Advantage has in place include recycling and charitable work in the local area. “We have joined the Heart of the City group to focus on helping in the local area with charity work and donating time and expertise to help other businesses,” explains Forder.


“We have recycle bins throughout the office and in the kitchen with posters designed to improve awareness of what can and cannot be recycled, with reporting in place that shows improvements in how much waste we recycle and how much paper we use.”


Travel Counsellors also runs charitable and environmental initiatives that could be replicated on a smaller scale by agencies.


“We support Greater Manchester-based Reuben’s Retreat – a charity focusing on supporting families and children with life-limiting conditions. We give the whole community the opportunity to get involved, with fundraising through various company activities.”


Travel Counsellors also offers support team staff the opportunity to take advantage of up to three paid days a year to support charities of their choice.

Setting up

Setting up

Many businesses will already be undertaking CSR activity but may not know it, says Forder.


“Recycling, raising money for a charity or training staff all count. It is a good idea to make a note of what your business is already doing.”


Most small organisations will not have a dedicated CSR team, so creating a group can help share the workaround. “We have an internal steering group with a common passion to give back and make a difference.


This passion will inevitably spread as these influencers champion CSR to their peers,” says Fox.


She adds that creating an actual policy is the next step for an agency. “This policy should state your businesses intentions, including what you want to achieve, where you want to improve and, where possible, have some measurable goals.”

Making the business case

The entire organisation needs to be onboard when implementing a CSR strategy, and management buy-in will be particularly important.


“CSR can align and help drive your business strategy, and it is getting more and more airtime in the boardroom as a fundamental business practice to building long-term growth and success,” says Fox.


Arguments that can be put forward include employee engagement and community integration – both for existing and new staff.


“CSR initiatives can add to employee satisfaction, which improves the workplace. They can also help attract new staff if people are looking to work for organisations who have a focus on CSR,” says Forder.


Focusing on trends and hot topics can help to pinpoint areas for a business’s CSR focus so aims are not spread too thinly.


Climate change has become a massive talking point recently, points out Forder. “[It] is being discussed around the world, in politics and on the streets, and this is reflected within businesses. The environment we work in now plays a huge role in companies’ CSR policies and behaviour.”


If agencies want to partner with a charity, it is important to choose one that has relevance to your team and clients, advises Fox.


“Source charity partners who stand for something your staff and customers believe in. Champion causes close to your hearts, and a small-scale CSR strategy may soon turn into something that packs a bigger punch.”

Be more than an agent

G Adventures’ managing director Brian Young offers his tips for a successful, small-scale CSR strategy


Determine your destiny: As a business owner, you must first create a culture. Choose the areas that you want to focus on and where you can make a positive impact.


Local hero: What can you do to be more than just an agent in your local community?


Product: Ask yourself how the suppliers you work with fit in with your CSR policy.


People: How do you manage your staff? Ensure you give them the opportunity to develop and grow.


Personal touch: Create a more engaged community.


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