In conversation with Jakob Baugirdis, Partner and Head of Corporate Reputation at ORCA van Loon Communications,on CSR at the ORCAs:

Jakob, in our series "Next Generation Corporate - Deep Dive CSR" we deal with questions around corporate responsibility. From a communications point of view, the term also hides a wealth of topics, e.g. greenwashing and employee communications. What does Corporate Social Responsibility mean to you?

For me, Corporate Social Responsibility today first and foremost means a mindshift that companies have to make for their business model to be accepted. Products and services no longer sell just because they fulfil a pure purpose. What is more important to internal and external stakeholders today is that companies show attitude and fulfil a meaningful purpose for the community with their business model.

This completely changes the way we have to build and manage reputation. In the past, business models had to generate profits to be successful on the financial markets. That's still the case today, of course. But for many years now, institutional investors have been focusing more and more on ESG factors. This shows: CSR intertwines an incredible number of stakeholder expectations and factors.

When you say there are various factors at play, how do you look at CSR at ORCA van Loon? Will you reveal your top three most important points where ORCAs take responsibility?

I've been with ORCA van Loon for almost 7 years now. And that’s because we are a true family business, which for me is unparalleled in the German communications market. That may sound a bit like self-praise. But anyone who has been working here knows what I'm talking about. Dieter and Hendrik really take responsibility for us as employees in every respect. For me, that is absolutely the most important thing when it comes to social responsibility. CSR starts with your own employees, for every company. As a Partner, I naturally try to do my part. I think we create an incredibly good, family-like balance here for a consulting company where things are often pretty hectic.

An important part of CSR is also, of course, reducing the impact on our environment. And even though, as a medium-sized consulting firm, we may not have as much leeway here as manufacturing companies, we are of course also trying to reduce our2carbon footprint more and more. As a father-to-be, that's really important to me - even if the overall contributions are rather small, such as ensuring that our water in the office comes from the tap, that we print as little as possible, or that we only use recycled paper. For us, CSR is about a holistic approach.

"Corporate Social Responsibility today first and foremost means a mindshift that companies have to make for their business model to be accepted."

Hand on heart: Where do you still see potential for improvement? What do you think someone who is involved with Fridays for Future and starts an internship with us would criticize?

First of all, our business trips. I'm just going to assume that (laughs). Consulting has always been a business of absolute trust. And in the end, nothing can replace personal contact with our clients. Of course, we sometimes take the train or even the plane if there's really no other way. But by working on a mobile basis by train, we have been able to minimize the proportion of air travel in recent years.

The fact that the Corona pandemic has meant that customer consultancy is now almost exclusively digital has also reduced our business travel. On the other hand, we often forget that everything that works digitally runs through huge, power-intensive data centers. Until they're completely powered by green electricity, we're also emitting CO2 with practically every single Google query. So you can see: Everything has its pros and cons.

After all, we are communicators with heart and soul. What do you think is most important when companies want to communicate their perceived and assumed responsibility? Can you maybe even give us a tip?

The areas in which companies assume social responsibility must fit their business model. Wanting to do business sustainably in every respect often ends up looking untrustworthy. Stakeholders have become much more critical today. Ultimately, everyone is aware that companies are economic organizations that have to generate profits. But you have to look very closely at what your stakeholders expect from you in terms of social responsibility. And they can only know this if they enter into a much closer dialog than in the past.

Today, for example, this can be made possible simply through regular online dialog formats. In the end, this is a huge opportunity for companies to bind their stakeholders much more closely to them and thus build trust. For me, this is the absolute best way to gain entrepreneurial room for maneuver through honest CSR communications.

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