The selling point of being a responsible LSP

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Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10. It’s a commemoration of the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The General Assembly followed up with a resolution in 1950 that invited all states and interested organizations to observe that day of each year as Human Rights Day.

The UN says that “Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.” The organization calls on people to take a stand for rights and advocate for more humanity, asking them to “Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.”

But it’s not just at international governmental levels where important cause-led campaigns are a priority.

Earlier this year, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, an event attended by around 11,000 delegates, one of the constant themes across many award-winning branding campaigns was that of having a purpose in your company’s marketing communications.

One of the award winners at the Festival was a campaign called Fearless Girl run on behalf of the New York investment firm State Street Global Advisors, which involved the commissioning of a statue of girl of around 12 years old placed directly opposite Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture. The campaign was launched to tie in with the first International Women’s Day after President Trump’s inauguration in the US. The campaign aims at promoting gender diversity on Wall Street, while raising awareness among financial communities of State Street’s SHE fund, which invests in businesses with female executives. While the initial idea was to place the statue on Wall Street for just one week, according to Pablo Walker, president of McCann Worldgroup Europe, it has become so popular that they now hope to keep it there for at least a year.

So why should businesses be concerned with such issues? To begin with, companies with a purpose beyond profit tend to make more money. In January 2016, Simon Caulkin of the Financial Times cited a survey from a combined team from Harvard Business Review Analytics and professional services firm EY’s Beacon institute. Entitled “The Business Case for Purpose,” the survey declared that “those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.” In his article covering the survey, Caulkin added that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found when studying a group of “visionary” companies between 1926 and 1990 that those guided by a purpose beyond making money returned six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals.

Purpose mobilizes people

According to Sherry Hakimi, founder and CEO of Sparktures, “a purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does. An organization without purpose manages people and resources, while an organization with purpose mobilizes people and resources. Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organizational culture. It’s an unseen-yet-ever-present element that drives an organization. It can be a strategic starting point, a product differentiator, and an organic attractor of users and customers.”

Jo Alexander, an associate at On Purpose, said that “Organizations that put people, rather than profit, at the heart of their business are successful because they understand what motivates people: a shared sense of purpose and our desire to form meaningful relationships.”

On Purpose provides a year-long leadership program in social enterprise, through a combination of work placements, formal training and coaching. Associates build their skills and sector awareness to harness the power of business for good. Alexander added, “A work environment that allows employees to fulfil both of these needs can unleash their collective potential in a way that traditional organizations, that view their people as being simply motivated by money, status and power, cannot.”

Hakimi goes on to say that when a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the authentically purposeful company’s products, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.

But while that might be the case for consumers, does having a purpose impact the business buying process too? The language industry serves as an interesting case study in this respect.

There are tens of thousands of language service providers (LSPs) offering translation, localization, transcreation and interpreting services to clients across the world. Finding ways to differentiate themselves in such a competitive industry can prove difficult.

It is imperative to understand the nature of their clients and their sectors. Clients more often choose a provider that understands their company spirit in addition to providing first-class quality language services. Indeed, this theory is backed up by buyers of language services. For example, Patrick Nunes, global communications manager at Rotary International, stated that while Rotary’s RFPs contain no official questions about an LSP’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, it is something he personally wants to hear about when talking to them, whether in a formal or informal setting.

While Nunes will not sacrifice attributes such as cost and efficiency in any supplier’s pitch, understanding their CSR policy could make a difference to him, particularly if it’s also in line with Rotary’s vision.

This was a view shared by Franck Schneider, digital communications manager at Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), who is also responsible for sourcing translation. Given that HUG cares for many migrants, Schneider views CSR as an important argument, along with cost and quality, in understanding the offering of potential new LSP suppliers. However, said Schneider, not many of those he has met put CSR forward as an argument for choosing them.

Many buyer companies espouse particular values or have their own CSR program, according to Jonathan Bowring, former European localization director at Canon Europe who now acts as a consultant to the language industry through his company Riversight. According to Bowring, “Canon operates a philosophy of kyosei, living and working together for the common good.” He explained that this encompasses society and the environment, both local and global, including the treatment of suppliers and even competitors and said that “buyers with strong value systems in place may seek to build supply chains which reflect those values, although this is often mitigated by the commercial realities of offshore pricing and the priorities of their procurement function.”

Off the coast of a refugee camp in Greece where TWB translated for refugees. Photo taken for TWB.

However, in Bowring’s experience, LSPs made relatively little noise about their CSR programs, if they had them, other than a mention on their website of support for Translators without Borders (TWB). TWB is a charity that helps non-profit organizations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services in times of great need, achieved through a global network of professional translators. But he said that “the values of a supplier have wider application than a CSR program.” For example, Bowring wants to know how an LSP treats its own suppliers and translators. Does it make a point of paying them fairly and on time, or are they exploited as the lowest in the food chain? He said that “the treatment of staff is another values indicator: an LSP once lost my prospective business by boasting to me in its sales pitch of the long hours regularly worked by its staff.”The values of a supplier have wider application than a CSR program... Click To Tweet

Employee fulfillment

Perhaps a more important reason for an LSP, or any business, to have a purpose is the impact it has on its own employees and, as Bowring puts it, “for the health of the organization itself.” He said that “Millennials tend to be interested in a holistic employer which lends meaning to their work. Having a corporate purpose beyond simply generating wealth may appeal to them and to others, for instance those addressing midlife questions of how to give something back. CSR can be highlighted in recruitment to attract the type of employee who shares the company ethos.”

Allison Ferch, programs director at the Globalization and Localization Association, agrees. She said that “CSR or similar could be a selling point for an LSP when they are trying to attract or retain talent. Certainly, many employees can and do appreciate a company culture that embraces social responsibility and demonstrates that in concrete ways.”

That’s certainly the case for CPSL’s vendor manager, Cristina Pera, who said that the company’s community involvement with TWB makes her feel proud of the company she works for and that it makes her feel more connected to the company, too. As well as supporting TWB, CPSL works with the First Hand Foundation, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to changing the lives of children and families around the world through health and wellness programming.

The contribution made by TWB sponsors is vital to supporting the sustainability of the organization’s core operations and programs. However, it’s the willingness of supporters to go the extra mile that its founder Lori Thicke would welcome. “Often LSPs that have extra capacity will offer project management support, helping to translate hundreds of thousands of words. We have had LSPs train our project managers, and also help fill the need for hard-to-source languages such as Rohingya, a current urgent need for the response to the refugee crisis in Bangladesh,” she said. Thicke added that of course the fun based fundraising activities that LSPs organize are important, but getting supporters interested and involved in this important work is great to see and it also helps to raise awareness of the importance of language agenda.

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Russell Goldsmith

About Russell Goldsmith

Russell Goldsmith is founder of Audere Communications. He runs workshops on creating engaging content for international campaigns, and regularly authors articles for clients, including CPSL Language Services. He produces and presents the csuite podcast, a show is aimed at marketing professionals and the wider business audience. He has recorded over 50 shows, interviewing more than 200 senior executives and recent sponsors of the show have included Microsoft and the UK’s Ministry of Justice.

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