Giving Back in International Education

By Daniel Woodard

I’m not really a fan of acronyms. I feel they’re often used by people too lazy to speak, BTW, or thrown about as corporate buzzwords to impress, FYI. But I accept that they sometimes have their place – after all, I work for a company that’s an acronym (EC).

CSR is terrible – so far as acronyms go. It completely fails to encompass the true nature of the ideology behind it. CSR stands for:

  1. Corporate – the word has negative connotations (just look at the press – full of corporate fat-cats, corporate big-wigs, corporate greed and corporate tax fraud).
  2. Social – I’m ok with social.
  3. Responsibility – something we are duty-bound to do. I have a responsibility to change my son’s nappy in the morning. Do I want to? No.

There’s no passion, no fire here; no desire to do something wonderful, to follow your heart and to change lives. This is why we’ve given up on the term CSR at EC and have opted to use ‘Giving Back’.

‘Giving’ is a positive verb (give love, give respect, give a smile); and while ‘back’ is an adverb here, in context it basically means ‘we humbly acknowledge we’re doing ok and would sincerely like to help out.’

And that, in essence, is what Giving Back is all about.

There are a lot of opinions about the state of our planet and who should fix it, and the idea of businesses taking some level of responsibility has its share of supporters and critics. But it doesn’t need to be that complex.

Broadly speaking, Giving Back can be divided into two categories (ignoring the financial aspect for now): community and environment. The community aspect can relate to the local (taking a vested interest in the community in which we have chosen to operate through supporting causes and/or building relationships with businesses), and to the global (for example, by partnering with an international charity to support its work).

Businesses are run by people, and as long as people have an inherent desire to do good, there is a place for Giving Back. The key is sincerity – if Giving Back is primarily a vehicle to drive sales, increase productivity and enhance a brand, employees and customers will see through it. If these benefits occur naturally as a part of the process (and they should) – and communications, both internal and external, are sensitive to this – then the success of your Giving Back initiative is much more likely.

The environmental side can be a little more business-like. The Giving Back initiative is an easy sell to the CFO if it’s done right. Efficiency in energy consumption saves cash and carbon; the same goes for paper and other office consumables. Negotiating a deal with a national provider of consumables can also create a little room to spend on more eco-friendly options, such as FSC-certified paper; conversely, buying local can tie into the community aspect of giving back. Staying ahead of the eco-friendly curve puts the company in a stronger position as more environmental legislation comes into effect. Industry regulators often like evidence of this sort of thing as well, so be sure to provide access to environmental policies during inspections.

In the education industry, we are duty-bound to be leading by example (isn’t that what all great teachers do?). Showing students that Giving Back is an effective and sincere way of redressing the balance and striving to make the world a better place is one more way to have a positive impact on their education – and it just might inspire them to give back in their own way.

Dan Woodard has worked at EC for 10 years and is the company’s global champion for doing good in the world. His role encompasses both the environmental and community aspect of EC’s Giving Back initiative, from sustainability issues such as carbon footprint monitoring and reduction, to local, regional and global community projects. EC’s partnership with United World Schools (UWS) is the pinnacle of Giving Back, delivering a holistic and comprehensive approach to charitable work that goes beyond philanthropy and seeks to build and maintain bridges between global communities to engage staff and students.