The Executive Lecture Series, on Wednesday 20th March 2013, added Claire Campbell (Global CSR Coordinator, Alliance Boots) to its ranks today as a two part lecture on “CSR at Alliance Boots” was delivered to students at LCBMIT. Claire, who has an extensive background in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and manages the network of CSR champions across the Group, spoke about why CSR is so integral to business at Alliance Boots and how to embed that into a daily routine. After the lecture, an interactive seminar was held with the top performing students of the December 2012 exams.
Principal and CEO Toaha Qureshi MBE touched on the humble beginnings of LCBMIT, emphasising the birth of the College through a charity, SGCS. He recalled of starting the College in a youth centre with just three students offering free tuition for students aged 10-18. He went on to say, “Business is not just about money, but also giving back to society and making the world a better place. I was lucky enough to have support during my studies and that made me the man I am today – that is why, through the College and other projects such as FIRD, we offer scholarships to students and make charitable donations – the purpose of the Executive Lecture Series is to inspire to become socially responsible graduates.”
Saad Mahmood, Director Corporate Affairs, touched on the desired traits, behaviours and skills expected of students whilst studying at LCBMIT, and once graduated, including; Lifelong learning and reflection, Creativity and Social responsibility. He went on to say, “We are doing something very unique at this College, inspiring socially responsible graduates is a huge task and we do this by getting our students involved in activities such as volunteering, engaging with responsible businesses and creating courses that are tailored for CSR.”
Attention was drawn to the Report from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (Feb 2012) for LCBMIT, which stated: “The College has also progressed the development of students’ employability and understanding of corporate social responsibility through engaging guest speakers from business, visits to organisations, developing case study materials in collaboration with employers, and exploring opportunities for students to volunteer with local community groups.”
During the lecture, Claire Campbell delved into the four areas of CSR activity that Boots covers; marketplace, community, workplace and environment. In total, there are 21 strands of these four areas. In the marketplace, they look at ethical investment and corporate governance. The community activities involve charitable giving, employee volunteering and education. Transport and energy are considered for environmental impact. Alliance Boots ensures that workplace is covered by thinking about issues such training & development and women in the workplace.
A question and answer session followed the lecture. One student asked, “As you are a national brand, your CSR does not come through in your online adverts and other media, like Procter & Gamble does recently with their “Proud Sponsors of Mums Campaign”. Wouldn’t that be the best way to get your message across?” Claire agreed and said that there is definitely a lot more that needs to be done in terms of getting the message across.
During the seminar, titled “Ethical Dilemmas”, students were asked to assess hypothetical ethical dilemmas to gain an understanding of the way businesses look at issues that may arise. Unbeknownst to the students, the “hypothetical” dilemmas were actually those that Alliance Boots faced themselves!
The dilemmas included:
Dilemma #1 – should we sell traditional medicines in our Chinese Joint Venture Business? Some of these contain animal parts of endangered species…
Dilemma #2 – Should Boots sell “sex toys”?
Dilemma #3 – where should we source roses from in February?
Umar Mahmood, lecturer at the Business School, related the dilemma to the recent news of the British government providing aid to Africa for contraception to help promote responsible sex and suggested that Alliance Boots. He delved into the traditional medicines dilemma stating that the Chinese business must balance business needs and goals against the need for CSR. However, the business must look into what benefit the animal parts are giving, if there is a way, it could be artificially created to take the place of animal parts. Claire later confirmed that there was no tangible benefit of the animal parts.
Mautbur Khadoo, Business Management Level 5 student, suggested that the business continue using the animal parts but use a portion of the profits made from the medicine to fund research and development into alternative options for animal parts.
President of the Eve Society, Seemab Begum, explained that Boots has a family-friendly business reputation and that offering sex toys could be damaging to that status, stating that she knows many people that "would not go" to Boots if they did openly advertise - she suggested an online method for sales. She added for the dilemma of sourcing roses for Valentine’s Day that sourcing them from abroad could cause an increase in pollution and thus increase the Alliance Boots carbon foot print – but the price should be considered.
Abdullah Khan, Business Management Level 5 student, offered that the roses should be sourced from the UK to support local British businesses which has a wider benefit for society and the broader economy of the country – something that UK businesses have a responsibility to consider.
Suzanne Joelle, Business Management Level 6 student, suggested that Boots Alliance could offer sex toys as long as it was not visible because children may accidentally be exposed to explicit toys which is immoral. She added that an “over the counter” service may be more appropriate – responsible sex should be advised and it helps in the promotion of healthy living, a goal of Alliance Boots.