No matter what your business does, it certainly doesn’t operate in isolation. It relies on a range of interlaced relationships with suppliers, customers, industry bodies, regulators, contractors, logistics companies, neighbouring businesses, and even competitors.
Naturally, some of those are well-established and on firm footing, while others might be in their fledgling stages, some will be closer than others, and some might even be casual or transient.
While all of those are important, the most significant relationships within a business environment are formed with employees. Ideally, these relationships are truly symbiotic, where the business and its staff members are reliant on one another and, therefore, fully support each other and raise each other up.
Whether you recognise it or not, many – in some cases all – of the people you have business relationships with are members of the community within which you operate.
Even if you only look at your staff and customers, each of them knows many other people, so whatever they think and have to say about the business is essentially how it’s viewed across the board.
They, like all other members of the community, would much prefer to be involved with and transact with a business that is not only aligned with the values of the community in which it operates but actively contributes to that community and its wellbeing.
So, taking the needs of the community into account whenever possible just makes good business sense.
Businesses are often in a good position to take a proactive stance in regard to community interests and social causes and able to leverage their core business capabilities to benefit the community.
If you play to your strengths and select or design initiatives that fit comfortably with your corporate and community priorities, your CSR activities will be far more sustainable, largely because they will resonate more naturally with your workforce.
At the same time, for your CSR initiatives to be both meaningful and sustainable, there should be a balance. Too much give or take will usually see the initiative run out of steam.
When you get your program right, it will bring benefits back to the business and benefits to the community you choose to support. Importantly, as your business benefits, the pie grows, which means you have more to share, so it makes sense for you to profit from your CSR platform.
Companies that identify causes that align with their corporate mission, employee base, and communities are the most likely to have effective CSR programs. Such organisations are able to advance these causes through authentic and sincere actions.
Here are a couple of global corporate examples:
1/ Coca-Cola is putting a huge focus on sustainability with the overarching message ‘a world without waste’. The global beverage giant’s goal is to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2030 through initiatives such as collecting and recycling every bottle, making its packaging 100% recyclable, and replacing all water used in creating its drinks back to the environment to ensure water security.
2/ Well before they were at the forefront of fighting a global pandemic, Pfizer offered vaccines to relief organisations at reduced prices and led an education initiative to prevent the over-prescription of antibiotics (despite potential impacts to its bottom line).
However, you don’t need to be acting on a global stage to have a positive impact. In fact, often a smaller, locally-based business can be much more targeted and collaborative with the local community, whereas a large corporation needs to commit a lot of resources to do things at scale.
Your CSR efforts will have greater cut-through when your team appreciates the benefits – to both the business and the community. You should help them understand that the community benefits when a business does more than just give money, and it’s in everyone’s best interests for the business to do well out of the CSR program.
It’s also extremely good for morale within the business, as Lenovo ANZ Managing Director Matt Codrington explained in a LinkedIn post a few years ago:
“At the senior executive level, a good CSR program helps leaders step outside the usual profit-and-loss paradigm to get behind good causes out in the communities in which we operate.
“On the people side, the visibility of the leadership team rolling up their sleeves, getting involved and enabling the wider team to do the same is hugely engaging for employees. It galvanises everyone’s positive attitudes, focusing the company on a common, important goal, while reducing the typical hierarchies within the company.”
Meanwhile, customers also like to understand that there are quantifiable benefits to a business’s CSR initiatives, rather than just a warm, fuzzy feeling.
It’s far more likely that you’ll influence spending behaviour with initiatives such as sourcing local produce because people like to feel that they’re making a difference to their community through their choices or decisions.
To create a CSR program that genuinely connects with the community, we can help you establish meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships. Our CSR Audit gives you a fool proof plan for integrating social impact throughout your business. Book an initial consultation today.
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