The Good Choice: How To Select a BPO Partner Dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Published: June 26, 2024
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In the age of conscious consumerism, many customers, especially millennials and Gen Zs, prefer supporting businesses prioritizing corporate social responsibility. Prioritizing CSR also means paying attention to the companies you’re doing business with – your outsourcing partner should be no exception.

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), there has been a surge in illicit activities among alleged BPO providers. From unfair labor practices to disregarding employee safety, you need to be aware of these bad actors in outsourcing and find ways to avoid working with them.

To help you in your search, we’ve outlined the critical considerations and factors you should know when assessing and selecting a potential outsourcing provider. Having a BPO partner who is as committed to CSR as you are can help you stay aligned on values and long-term goals while safeguarding your brand reputation and improving your relationship with customers.

Quick Overview: What Is Corporate Social Responsibility and Why Is It Important?

As you may already know, CSR, meaning corporate social responsibility, refers to maximizing a company’s benefit to society through philanthropic activities, environmental advocacy, fair employment and labor practices, or other socially beneficial initiatives.

According to a recent report, CSR is a crucial consideration for today’s customers, with 81% agreeing that making positive societal actions and contributions can help improve a company’s reputation. Consumers want businesses to speak up and take action on issues like the cost of living (60%), fair wages and labor practices (54%), the climate crisis (41%), and the responsible use of AI (38%).

Knowing this, you must be selective when searching for an outsourcing partner. Choosing a BPO vendor that doesn’t share your values and goals, particularly regarding social responsibility, can damage your reputation among consumers, investors, and stakeholders, impacting your brand image.

Selecting a BPO Partner With a Strong Commitment to CSR

An image shows two hands joining together. Caption reads: Importance of Choosing a BPO partner dedicated to CSR.

Let’s face it: The main reason why many companies choose to outsource is to leverage cost-effective services and drive expenses down. However, working with the cheapest service provider you find without paying attention to their wages, labor practices, and working conditions is a risky move.

Finding an outsourcing partner that genuinely shares your company’s commitment to ethical and socially responsible practices should be at the top of your priority list. 

Beyond fair wages, reasonable hours, and safe working conditions for employees, your provider should offer transparency and accountability, commit to diversity and inclusion, and care about minimizing their ecological footprint through eco-friendly and sustainable practices.

In today’s day and age, not knowing about your business partners’ unethical practices is no excuse. If you don’t perform your due diligence when selecting a provider, your customers and stakeholders will find out and hold you accountable.

Real-Life Case Study: Apple

One example is the case of Apple and Suyin Electronics. In 2013, the tech giant Apple hired Suyin Electronics, a China-based manufacturer, to make HDMI and USB ports for their MacBooks. However, an investigation soon uncovered that the supplier employed underaged workers in their assembly lines. 

Due to their existing contracts, Apple had to keep working with the manufacturer for three years. They finally cut ties once the contract was up, but the situation still impacted Apple’s brand reputation, causing uproar from anti-child labor activists and backlash from consumers.

Here’s the story’s moral: Be sure you know who you’re doing business with.

To help you make these decisions, we’ve outlined the key considerations for selecting your ideal BPO partner.

Assess Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability and environmental impact are among the main priorities for socially responsible businesses. According to a Deloitte study, many executives rated climate change as a “top three issue” in their organization, with 75% increasing their sustainability investments and 61% saying climate change will significantly impact their strategy and operations.

Much like how companies have accelerated their sustainability initiatives, it’s also essential to have an outsourcing partner committed to environment-friendly practices. To assess whether your BPO provider is genuinely dedicated to sustainability, we suggest measuring and analyzing their processes’ direct and indirect impact on natural resources like water, air, land, and biodiversity. Here are some examples of how you can review their environmental footprint:

Check for ISO 14001 certifications or equivalent environmental standards.

The ISO 14001 provides a framework for designing and implementing environmental management systems (EMS). Following this internationally recognized standard allows businesses to improve their environmental performance, minimize their carbon footprint, and achieve greater sustainability.

Evaluate their carbon emissions through the GHG Protocol

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol is a standardized framework for measuring and managing carbon emissions for the public and private sectors. When designing their operational models, 92% of Fortune 500 companies use the GHG protocol to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate their effects on the environment.

Calculate the environmental costs of their services using the LCA.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology for quantifying the sustainability of a company’s products, processes, and systems throughout its entire life cycle. Performed by certified professionals, the LCA evaluates the organization’s inputs and outputs and then assesses how each process step impacts the environment or human health.

Aside from the strategies mentioned above, you can verify your BPO partner’s sustainability policy by asking about their energy consumption, recycling, waste disposal, and other eco-friendly practices. Your goal should be to evaluate different outsourcing companies based on their ecological performance, compare their strategies against each other, and select the one that best fits your values and goals.

Evaluate Social Responsibility Initiatives

Beyond sustainability programs, your ideal BPO partner must also prioritize other forms of corporate social responsibility. The same survey mentioned above found that offering fair wages (84%), promoting gender equality in the workplace (74%), and providing job opportunities to underserved populations (65%) are among the specific actions investors look for when evaluating a company’s CSR initiatives.

So, knowing this, how can you examine whether your BPO partner of choice meets these criteria? Here are some of the steps you can take:

Look for evidence of fair labor practices and ethical work conditions

For instance, if you’re considering outsourcing to Philippines BPO companies, make sure they follow the country’s Labor Code. This law ensures that employees receive fair compensation for their labor, be paid overtime for working beyond the standard 48-hour workweek, have a minimum of one rest day after six consecutive working days, and be paid a night differential for working between 10 PM and 6 AM.

Check if they support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Beyond fair wages and ethical work conditions, the Philippine Labor Code also aims to ensure equal work opportunities for everyone. The law specifies that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on gender, race, or creed, promoting “equal pay for equal work.”

Your ideal BPO partner should go beyond this requirement. Instead of just preventing discrimination, find a vendor who actively embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We suggest asking about their DEI policies (such as how they reduce biases in the hiring process or how they handle merit increases and promotions).

Review their community engagement and philanthropic activities.

Another way to evaluate your outsourcing partner’s commitment to social responsibility is by checking whether they have specific programs that help employees and engage their community. Ideally, your chosen BPO company will go the extra mile by participating in philanthropic activities such as donation drives, community outreach programs, and other volunteer work.

Ensure Compliance With International Regulations

While a potential BPO provider is expected to abide by laws in the nation where it operates, being your partner also means they should not get you in trouble with the regulations within your home country. Your ideal outsourcing provider should be familiar with U.S.-specific and international laws, such as the United Nations Global Impact, and implement these standards where applicable when designing their operational strategy.

Real-Life Case Study: Nike

Here’s one real-life case study you can learn from: The famous footwear company Nike once partnered with Ramatex Group, a supplier that operates several Southeast Asian factories. This partnership helped produce a large volume of the brand’s apparel.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the factories violated international regulations with their poor working conditions, excessive work hours with no overtime pay, and inadequate wages. Because Nike was unaware of its biggest supplier’s human rights violations, consumers and stakeholders began doubting the brand’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, even calling it a “hypocrite” at the height of the issue.

Nike soon terminated its partnership with Ramatex, even though it meant temporarily disrupting its supply chain and supplier relationships. The company pledged to maintain high ethical standards across all aspects of its operations and perform rigorous supplier audits that regularly monitor the conditions of its overseas factories.

Commitment to CSR = Caring for Your People

The example above highlights the growing need for multinational corporations to balance practical business strategies with their ethical and social responsibilities. Committing to CSR means committing to your people – the lifeblood of any business.

By working with a BPO that adheres to local and international social standards, you can ensure a smoother cross-cultural partnership while safeguarding the rights of the employees under your care. At the same time, you get the bonus of assuring consumers that you are a company with strong morals and values.

Check for Employee Health and Well-Being Programs

We’ve already discussed the importance of fair wages and safe working conditions. However, an employer’s commitment to social responsibility doesn’t stop there. You must also care about your workers’ physical, emotional, or mental health.

In the era of low employee engagement, your ideal provider should be a BPO company that actively invests in the well-being of their workforce. Ask about their employee health and wellness programs when selecting an outsourcing partner.

Physical and Mental Health Provisions

If you’re committed to outsourcing to the Philippines, you should look for BPO firms that adhere to the National Health Insurance Act. This law aims to provide affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos, particularly prioritizing people with disabilities, older adults, and other underprivileged groups.

Outsourcing companies typically provide health maintenance organization (HMO) benefits to their employees, which include free or subsidized doctor consultations, medical expense reimbursements, annual physical exams, laboratory and diagnostic tests, and even group life insurance policies.

Ideally, the Philippine BPO you choose should go the extra mile in caring for employees’ physical wellness and mental health. A few good signs that show a company’s commitment to workers’ mental health include engaging them through regular events and activities, providing in-office sleeping areas, gyms, and other leisure activity spaces, and sharing information and resources for mental health management.

Determine If Organizational Structure Welcomes Professional Growth

Another good indication of a BPO’s commitment to CSR is fair organizational structure. This is important because it clearly outlines how activities are directed, how communication flows within the company, what roles and responsibilities an employee has, and how authority is delegated. 

A clear and organized structure also shows how employees can climb the career ladder or achieve the professional growth they seek. They are also signs that you are partnering with a legitimate BPO company that actively prioritizes its workers. The best way to check whether your outsourcing partner’s organizational structure welcomes employee development is by asking about the following:

Hierarchical Structure

Philippine BPOs are often organized from the top down, with multiple management levels, from frontline supervisors and managers to C-suite executives. Each level of the hierarchy oversees the one below it in this structure, giving employees guidance and direction. Having clear lines of authority promotes accountability, responsibility, and transparency for employees and their higher-ups.

Reporting Structure

In addition to a hierarchical structure, your chosen BPO partner must have a transparent chain of command for reporting. For instance, a frontline agent reports their progress directly to their supervisor, who then reports their team’s performance to the manager, who then reports to their department head. All department heads then communicate and collaborate, as well as with top executives, to ensure that everyone is working together to meet the company’s goals.

Communication Channels

A well-functioning internal communication system is another sign of a healthy organizational structure. Employees must know who to contact and which platform to use for questions or concerns. For instance, company-wide announcements may be shared through digital newsletters, payroll concerns may be sent to HR representatives through email, IT problems may be resolved through internal ticketing systems, departments may use messaging platforms like Skype or Slack for instant communication, etc.

Check Their Use of Innovation and Technology 

We live in the digital age, where robust technologies and infrastructure are critical to any business’s success. Knowing this, you cannot afford to overlook innovation and technology when selecting your BPO partner.

Your ideal outsourcing provider should use cutting-edge systems and processes to support and streamline your team’s workload, offer omnichannel platform integration to ensure seamless and hassle-free customer experiences and adhere to best practices in data privacy and cybersecurity.

Addressing Data Protection and Cybersecurity Issues

Here’s a real-life sample case that illustrates the importance of choosing an outsourcing partner with robust cybersecurity: In 2023, over 57,028 Bank of America customers had their essential personal and financial data stolen in a cyber-attack. The data breach happened because malicious actors could hack into Bank of America’s IT provider, Infosys McCamish Systems.

By focusing attacks on the bank’s outsourced IT team, dangerous entities could access many people’s addresses, credit card information, and social security numbers. This case highlights why you should properly vet your BPO provider and evaluate whether they can protect your confidential data from digital attacks.

We recommend searching for a BPO company with an ISO 27001 certification. This certification means that the company follows international standards in information security management and has suitable systems, policies, and processes to uphold the confidentiality and integrity of your essential data.

Innovation for Greater Sustainability

Additionally, to assist you in your CSR and sustainability initiatives, reach out to a BPO partner that adopts technology and tools to help ensure transparency across all areas of your supply chain. According to Hubspot’s 2024 Sustainability Trends Report, adopting technological innovations can help reduce carbon emissions by 85% and assist businesses in engaging stakeholders and creating long-term value for their partnership.

Ensure Transparency and Reporting 

It’s not enough for your BPO provider to tell you at the start of your partnership that they prioritize corporate social responsibility. They should show you their commitment through regular reporting and communication.

Transparency is essential to CSR because it allows all relevant stakeholders to gauge whether their initiatives are making a difference. Consumers are among the voices calling for greater transparency and accountability for organizations, with many of them trying to research their chosen brand’s CSR programs before deciding where to spend their money.

According to S&P Global’s State of Green Business Report, more companies practice transparency by publishing reports on their sustainability and social responsibility initiatives. In 2011, only 20% of the largest 500 businesses were transparent about their CSR efforts, but that number quickly skyrocketed to a whopping 90% in 2019. 

When selecting your outsourcing partner, establish a transparent reporting mechanism. Tell them how often you expect to hear from them about their progress and set relevant KPIs and metrics to measure performance so you can see firsthand whether your initiatives are working as intended.

4 executives hold hand in hand, signaling a CSR partnership.

Partner With a Socially Responsible BPO in the Philippines

If you’re looking for an outsourcing partner as committed to corporate social responsibility as you are, you can’t go wrong with SuperStaff. Like you, we understand the power of using our organization as a force for change for the betterment of our workers, the environment, and society as a whole.

At our people-centered BPO company, we go beyond offering fair wages and safe working conditions. We actively invest in our employees’ health, well-being, and personal and professional growth. 

Our various employee engagement initiatives foster genuine bonds and relationships with our workers. We also practice CSR by giving back to underserved communities through donation drives and other charitable activities.

By working with us, you can accomplish your business goals while upholding your commitment to the highest ethical and social standards. Contact our team today to learn more about our CSR programs.

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