You’d expect a tram company to have statistics in relation to passenger journeys and reliability. At Transdev Ireland, which runs Dublin’s LUAS tram service, these metrics are only the departure point. Thanks to its work with Business in the Community, it now measures everything from the engagement of its staff and its customers, to the impact it has on the local community and the wider environment. The aim of all this measurement is simple – to ensure it stays on the right track for sustainability.
Transdev Ireland is part of Europe’s largest private passenger transport company. Its 289 employees are responsible for more than 30 million passenger journeys a year, delivering 99% reliability on a daily basis and achieving independently audited customer satisfaction ratings of 87%.
In recent years it has concentrated on developing and formalising its CSR policies and procedures, to ensure its civic credentials match its business performance.
Central to this has been the achievement, in 2012, of Business in the Community’s Business Working Responsibly Mark, the gold standard in good corporate citizenship.
“We have always engaged with the community in terms of corporate giving and charity or sponsoring various events but we were doing it in a non-structured way,” explained Transdev communications manager Dervla Brophy, who took a lead role in helping the company attain the Business Working Responsibly Mark.
“BITC came into our lives and gave us a much more structured framework in which to work. What is different about our approach to CSR is that it is much more firmly embedded in the organisation. It is now an integral part of how we operate as a company.”
Achieving the Mark, a structured process involving questionnaires, consulting and audits, “requires effort”, but the benefits accrue not despite the work involved in gaining it, but because of it, she said.
One of the initiatives Transdev undertook was to partner with a local school in a disadvantaged area, helping to upgrade it. Transdev also partners with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, supporting its “Say no to Racism” advertising campaign which it runs on its trams
Not alone are both initiatives “loved by our staff” but they serve key business purposes too.
“We have more than 20 different nationalities within our staff,” said Brophy. “Diversity is therefore a hugely important aspect of our business.”
The mentoring Transdev’s staff provides to school students is also mutually beneficial.
“We partner with a diverse, multicultural school and we are a diverse, multicultural workplace. We share our stories with them, run customer care workshops with them and we give work experience opportunities.”
The benefits flow in both directions. “This school is on the LUAS line. By going in there, working with these kids, transforming their school room, it helps them appreciate us as employees and our service. It closes the circle in so far as they see that we are part of their community, not just driving through it.”
For the tram company, it’s been quite a journey.“Our CSR activities no longer come out of the company’s marketing or sponsorship budget, but stand alone. That represents quite an internal shift. It’s not about activities that are up there in lights for their promotional value, it’s about making a real difference to the community in which we operate, and in turn, it has made a real difference to us.” she said.
For Transdev Ireland’s managing director Gerry Madden a key benefit of the Mark is the metrics it provides. “With anything you do as a company, if you want to make a difference you have to set targets and to do that you have to be able to measure,” said Brennan.
“While we have always striven to be a good corporate citizen, what is new to us is the structure we now have on our CSR activities, and that is thanks to Business in the Community. It encompasses everything we do, from how we handle customers on a day to day basis to how we reduce our water or electricity consumption.”
He now believes all companies should award points for CSR practices when tendering for business.
Achieving the Mark has been an important milestone for the company. “The fact that it is an external assessment has been of huge value for us in Transdev Ireland. Achieving it has given us international recognition within our own group,” he said.
Write CSR off as ‘touchy feely’ at your peril. “I get very frustrated when people think it’s a warm and fuzzy concept. Just look at the companies that have the Business Working Responsibly Mark – Boots, Pfizer, Accenture. These are seriously successful businesses with serious bottom lines. The fact is, working on CSR puts you in a much stronger position as a business,” he said.
The Mark’s role is to provide a framework for continuous improvement. “Whereas before, good stuff just happened, now we have a road map, a vision that enables us strive for even more.”