Are you interested in discovering the value of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in today’s dynamic business scene? Get immersed in the topic with PrepAdviser’s guest speakers from the UK.

Lucy Kendall, Newcastle University Business School alumna and CEO of COCO Charity, and Peter Edward, professor at Newcastle University Business School, share unique insights on CSR and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on business. Dave Eason, International Student Recruitment Manager at the UK university, joined them in this interactive panel interview with questions from the audience Q&A.

CSR is one of Newcastle University Business School’s hallmark programs. Check out a short excerpt from the discussion and watch the full video recording for more insider opinions.

How important is CSR and philanthropy to your organization?

Lucy Kendall: It’s absolutely vital to us. I’m having conversations every Wednesday with executives of small international development organizations in the North East. Funding is being hurt everywhere and actually, COCO are arguably better off than some other organizations that solely rely on grant funding and funding through the department of international development. There’s so much change going on at a macro level that if you don’t have that extra income from a diverse range of sources, you’re in really big trouble. But one thing that has been great for COCO is that I decided to wait before I asked people for support. When the lockdown hit, everyone’s main concern was “Am I going to get sick?”. It’s about getting the timing right as well. I think it would have been insensitive to have approached people for support then, so we waited a while. And then we went to our most loyal corporate supporters and individuals and asked them if they would consider setting up a regular gift. It was incredible how many people came back. A lot of the time they are owners of businesses that we have worked with before. There is a huge sense of community and support in the North East.

Have you noticed any differences between sectors and types of industry in their response to Covid-19?

Peter Edward: I think the industries that have responded the most are the ones that have been closest to their communities or have been able to convert what they’re doing to producing PPE or hand sanitizer. Companies have been able to jump on the bandwagon of certain business opportunities. Whether you would call that CSR, it would surely be a really interesting discussion to have in the classroom, live or on Zoom, and get the different viewpoints of students. One of the great things is that at Newcastle we have a very rich, diverse international community of students. You get a lot of different viewpoints that we can all share and draw on in the classroom. And that’s an important part of postgraduate education.

What steps have you taken to look after your team during this challenging period?

Lucy Kendall: I am a big advocate of looking after your team. As a CEO of an international organization, you don’t get to go through life without burning out yourself so I know what that feels like and I don’t want that to have to happen to any of my colleagues. It still happens – you try and look after everyone else and then you realize you’re not taking your own advice.

We’ve been doing team calls every Monday and we don’t talk about work. It’s completely different, it’s a no-work conversation. It’s been really helpful. Since I needed to talk to them about the future at COCO, I suggested that we met in the park and we stand two meters apart. It’s a beautiful park that we went to on a sunny day and we talked about what life might look like when we go back to work, what some of our concerns might be. They were worried that if we lost the office, we wouldn’t be together anymore and we would lose that sense of culture and who we are as a group of people. So, we talked about how we could do that differently.

How did the business school respond to the crisis and what steps have been taken to support colleagues and students?

Peter Edward: We are a research-active university, so research and teaching are our core ethos. When Covid-19 started, we very quickly shifted towards taking care of the students and their student experience, recognizing they needed a lot of support through this. At that time, I was teaching a fairly intensive course on the MBA, so I had a lot of interaction with them via Zoom and produced online sessions – something that we switched to very quickly. Most of our international students were still in Newcastle, but they all seemed to be coping very well and had very close support networks amongst themselves which I think is a testament to the close relationships we build at Newcastle. It’s a university where the power distance between staff and students is very low.

There was an enormous amount of focus on keeping the quality of education, keeping the engagement, a lot of emphasis on the well-being of students and reaching out to them. We are not just delivering teaching, we are emotionally invested in the experience and the journey our students undergo.


Do you want to hear more insightful details about CSR from the conversation between Lucy Kendall and Peter Edward? Watch the full recording today! Dave Eason, International Student Recruitment Manager, and Kirsty Setz-Clarke, International Recruitment Manager (India, Middle East, Latin America, EU), are always available for your questions.