Customer management is a people industry. It’s not just an employee-intensive industry, but an industry focused on serving and supporting people. This has always been the case, but something has changed in recent years: all these people increasingly want to deal with businesses that do the right thing.
In a fast-growing industry, that’s important. It means that growth has to be sustainable and to factor in strong ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles. Without that, the industry can no longer stay in tune with employees, customers and the wider labour pool.
Some companies see this as an impediment when they’re busy looking to boost efficiencies, digitalize or grow their footprint. But at Comdata, we know that sustainable growth, built on ESG, makes sense financially, societally and environmentally.
In a recent report, Frost & Sullivan stated that, in BPO, it gives companies “a differentiated and competitive place in a crowded market. [It’s] not just good for business. When it is infused into the business mission, it provides greater benefits to the company, its people, its clients and customers, and in the communities in which it operates.”
What Do We Mean by Sustainable Growth?
Sustainable growth can mean different things to different people – both in our industry and beyond. So, what do we mean by it at Comdata?
Mehdi Benabdallah, Group Marketing & Digital Practice Director and Head of Engagement at Comdata, explains: “As a company, Comdata is growing fast, but as we do so, we always look at our sustainability responsibilities.
“We build ESG into all our planning for growth – for example, taking into account our responsibilities when it comes to ethics, transparency, governance, the way we behave, how we treat the people we employ, and how we operate in our different countries and regions.
“For example, when we set up in a country, region or city, we often become a key employer there. That could impact employment in that location and could involve environmental elements too, so we factor that into our growth strategy and the decisions we make. Our impacts should always be positive for the places where we operate.”
Industry Trends Need Sustainable Approaches
That thinking also applies in Comdata’s approach to two other major trends in the BPO and CMO industry.
The first one is carve-out and mergers & acquisition (M&A) and the rapid consolidation underway in our industry. Given the growing importance of ESG and sustainability for investors, employees and other stakeholders, all carve-out and M&A activity should aim for ‘sustainable growth’ not just ‘growth’.
As with organic growth, when Comdata acquires or merges with other operations, we also take on the responsibility for their people and the communities where they operate. It’s important for all those involved in these activities to remember that.
The second major industry trend where sustainability matters is digitalization. Decisions around technology adoption and migration should always take human factors into account – from the well-being of employees to issues around digital exclusion worldwide.
With both trends, sustainable growth means taking a holistic view of technology, people, regulation, organization and processes. The financial numbers are crucial, but long-term financial success involves more.
Sustainable Growth in Practice
There’s a risk with any discussion of ‘sustainability’ that it becomes conceptual. So let’s get physical! When we talk about pursuing sustainable growth at Comdata and acting responsibly, what are we doing in practice?
And how do we ensure that we exercise responsibility across a growing organization with 50,000+ people in 21 countries? Especially when the communities in those different countries may have their own unique issues and concerns.
We’ll give you five key examples of our practical approach to sustainable growth and responsibility.
Example 1: The Scope of ESG at Comdata
First, we’ll explain what we mean when we talk about ESG and treating people and communities responsibly.
As Frost & Sullivan point out, the traditional view of ESG focused on charitable giving, in-kind donations and recycling programmes, but it now involves a much wider scope, including “the myriad ways that a company can have a positive impact on the world — people, organizations, communities, and the environment.”
We agree. We certainly support charities, community projects and recycling, but we also have programmes on workforce diversity & inclusion, employability and development opportunities for all staff, a management culture of empowerment and transparency, initiatives promoting staff well-being and work/life balance, and carbon reduction and biodiversity projects. And that’s just a selection.
Example 2: Root and Branch Responsibility
We make sustainable growth a reality through a dual top-down and bottom-up approaches:
- senior management drives our sustainability vision and targets from the top
- individual country ESG ‘Relay’ committees, sites and employees work from the ground up to deliver them
- HR, ESG and other policies embed responsibility into the business
- managers and team leaders ‘walk the talk’.
This approach to embedding responsibility at all levels of the business was validated when Comdata France was awarded the Engaged CSR Label in 2021, achieving the maximum score possible in its first assessment.
The award included a rigorous evaluation process involving 5 areas of strategic, managerial and operational practices, a range of social and environmental indicators, and a 17-day assessment involving multiple on-site assessments and meetings with staff and stakeholders.
The assessors praised the commitment to ESG running throughout the business, from Exco to staff in different regions.
Example 3: Diversity and Inclusion
Another example of our responsibility towards people is our Group-wide diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative. We want all our people in Comdata to feel welcomed, valued, respected and supported – it matters to them as individuals and it helps us increase customer satisfaction and outperform as a business.
To achieve that, we have an ongoing programme on diversity and inclusion, including annual Group surveys and follow-up, training, awareness and communication activity, including through local D&I committees.
Example 4: Making a Positive Impact
To quote Frost & Sullivan again, ‘Employees, especially Millennials, ….want to be part of something larger than themselves. They aspire to work for companies that align with their values and their own purpose.” Here too, we agree. Our people want to help their own and other communities, and we encourage them.
For example, in Madagascar, our country director has driven numerous local initiatives around biodiversity and reforestation, and our teams there have enthusiastically rolled up their sleeves to help plant 1500 trees.
Around our other geographies too, from Turkey to LatAm to Eastern and Southern Europe to the UK, our different teams actively engage with local causes on a range of environmental, health, social and education issues.
Example 5: Well-being and Opportunities
People want to work for employers who care. When they feel supported, valued and presented with development opportunities, they pass that on to clients and customers. So, everybody benefits.
We care for our employees in a whole host of ways:
- In Morocco and the Indian Ocean, we have Happiness Managers. They help people learn, socialize, get involved in community and environmental initiatives, and organize events or initiatives around well-being and health.
- Through Comdata SmartHub, we offer work@home arrangements for our staff – not only decarbonizing some of our activities, but also cutting the time they have to spend on commuting and helping them juggle work with caring for children or other relations.
- We organize social activities, offer best-in-class training, promote from within, and much, much more.
Forbes magazine once gave a useful definition of sustainable growth as: growth that is repeatable, ethical and responsible. We would add one more item to that list – it is growth that can last.
By looking after people, culture, communities and places, we also look after the reputation and future prospects of the business, our current and future workforce and the clients we serve. That’s why sustainable growth matters in customer management outsourcing, and that’s why we care about it.