The Importance of Being a Responsible Language Services Vendor
By: Russell Goldsmith - CPSL
10 January 2018
Companies with a higher purpose, beyond making a profit, tend to make more money! Simon Caulkin reports in the Financial Times about a survey by a combined team from Harvard Business Review Analytics and the professional services firm EY Beacon Institute. Entitled “The Business Case for Purpose,” the survey declares that “those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.” He adds that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that between 1926 and 1990, when studying a group of “visionary” companies, i.e., those guided by a purpose beyond making money, they returned six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals.
Why is this so?
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 says 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 adds “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.
However, according to Tenesoya Pawlowsky, CEO at CPSL, an LSP with offices across Europe and in the US, it is imperative to understand the nature of their clients and their sectors. CPSL aligns to their clients’ visions and corporate philosophy and Tenesoya Pawlowsky believes that 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, states that while Rotary’s RFP’s 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 is 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, says 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 explains that this encompasses society and the environment, both local and global, including the treatment of suppliers and even competitors and says 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.”
However, in Bowring’s experience, LSPs make relatively little noise about their CSR programs, if they have 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 says 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 says 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.”
According to Alexander, “Purposeful organizations are moving beyond CSR, which is often viewed as an initiative that is bolted onto ‘business as usual;’ instead they have progressed to having a purpose that is central to, and affects every part of, their business. This transition naturally happens when people in an organization feel strongly about WHY it exists.”
So 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 says 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 says 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.”
Tenesoya Pawlowsky has a similar viewpoint, adding that “it’s proven that employees are happier in responsible companies than those who don’t pay any heed to this.” That’s certainly the case for CPSL’s Vendor Manager, Cristina Pera, who says 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 also works with the First Hand Foundation, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to changing the lives of children and families around the world through innovative health and wellness programming. Pawlowsky explains that the company is very fond of their work and programs of both organization, but in the case of First Hand, they also know the team behind the organization, which generates trust and a connection to what they do.
According to Shanna Adamic, Senior Events Manager for the First Hand Foundation, they rely on the support of CPSL to help fulfill their mission: “It’s not just about fundraising, it is about understanding that giving back is in our DNA and Cerner has provided a way to do so through First Hand Foundation. Companies like CPSL and their involvement with First Hand are essential to our growth,” she says.
In the case of TWB, Pawlowsky says that CPSL supports them as they appreciate that they have become the voice of those more vulnerable in our society. “TWB is doing a terrific job with humanitarian international causes and these days also helps and supports the refugees, a task for which we have serious respect and we are very sensitive about” she says. As a sponsor of TWB, CPSL provide a yearly investment and look to collaborate further where they can help, for example, in the field of interpreting.
The generous 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 welcomes. “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 says. Thicke adds that 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 helps to raise awareness of the importance of the language agenda…
Tenesoya Pawlowsky believes that that developing CSR policies and running businesses in a more sustainable way is beneficial for all sorts of companies and that, naturally, it has good impact when it comes to corporate reputation. However, for her, it goes far beyond that. She believes that “We all should contribute to build a more sustainable world. Even the smallest of office-based businesses can make substantial changes when it comes to the environment.”