Socially responsible entrepreneurship: is it even possible if even the Friesland Bank bites the dust?

Last week it was announced that the Rabobank has now taken over the Friesland Bank. “The Frisian bank would not be able to make it alone”, according to the Rabobank.

It is a shame that corporate social responsibility by itself is not enough to stay clear of the tough times. It is obvious we need to look out for each other. Business, but in a social way. It is positive that the Rabobank supports her new employees.

Social is a relative term according to many. The dictionary tells us the following: so·ci·al – ‘related to society, to its welfare’.

As an individual you can be social to your neighbours, friends or the people in your surroundings that are slightly less fortunate or even to people you will never see. A company can be social too. At a local, regional, national and even international level. One does it a little more than the other. Banks like the Rabobank and the Friesland Bank are usually social to people in their region. Like that there are also banks that are ready for another on a global scale, like the Triodos Bank for example. Not by giving away anything, but by supporting self-reliance. And considering everybody in the Netherlands has more prosperity than people in development countries, the Triodos Bank is high on my list of social responsibility.

Still it is true that the average company thinks of his shareholders first. Naturally, money must pay out so that a company can live on in the long-term as well. But think of the message 2 years ago for example: ‘ABN puts suppliers in a tight spot’. This bank demanded a refund of 10% of the transferred funds in 2007 in exchange for contractual conservation. Some of these suppliers called it nothing short of blackmail. A legal, business action of the ABN Amro. I call it asocial and think of myself as fortunate that Invantive is not a relation of ABN. If ABN was struggling, which it apparently did, then you ask for help from your suppliers instead of demanding money back. Where is the human aspect? There are people behind companies. Are these people required to refund their salaries as well? Is corporate social responsibility even possible these days? And should you even want it? As far as I am concerned ABN represents the other end of corporate social responsibility.

I often wonder whether a company like Invantive is doing the right thing when it comes to corporate social responsibility. We apply reasonable salaries, but certainly not higher than other salaries on the market. What is left I put aside. Is that social to the employees when they can acquire a higher salary in a different place? On the contrary, I am of the opinion that that is exactly the social action. What is not spent, will help you through the lean times ahead. I think that is important for our relations, but also for our employees.

I also regularly consider the policy for the suppliers. I have fundamental problems with supporting suppliers if they do not work properly and set demands. But if they do their job well, are you allowed as a company to extort the smaller suppliers by stretching out the payment deadlines and therefore abusing your position of power? I do not think so; it is the small suppliers that work hard and deliver innovation. You should support them so that they can grow. That is why Invantive tries to pay the smaller suppliers right after approval.

Taking care of each other, that is something which is often forgotten. By individuals, in relations and within socially responsible companies and multinationals. Do not misunderstand me. Being social can be a small thing too, a gesture or an action. But as companies we should lead by example and actually be a social responsible corporation.

I am curious about what you think of the current state of affairs when it comes to corporate social responsibility. And whether Invantive is sufficiently responsibly living up to your values.