These days, we see a lot of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that appear to have been put in place just for the sake of it. Is it even worth the effort if their impact is limited?
Perhaps just getting started is better than not. Maybe taking the first step might set your business on the path to developing something more effective over time.
However, if you’re going to introduce a CSR component to your business, why wouldn’t you do it the way you would any other change or initiative: crunch some numbers, do some planning, ask the right questions, and make sure that what you’re going to do will produce positive outcomes.
Before you implement any CSR initiatives, make sure you have a strategy for your business. In other words, start by deciding what you want from your CSR initiatives.
That’s right: it’s not all about giving. You should be able to ‘do’ win-win CSR, where there are benefits to your business as well as any charity or community partners, the environment, and so on.
Simply donating a portion of your profits to a charity will do little for your business. Even the reputational uptick from being able to make that claim and put the charity’s logo on your website is minimal.
Instead, create a business-wide CSR strategy that:
o is meaningful to your team,
o customers will feel good about,
o will resonate with potential partners,
o paints your business as more than run-of-the-mill, and
o is profitable.
If you get CSR right, you’ll experience shared value. That is, there’ll be an economic return to the business because of and in conjunction with providing benefit to the community.
From a purely reputational perspective, you’ll enhance and differentiate your brand in a more meaningful and impactful way than any amount of traditional PR and marketing. That’s already worth something.
Customers will appreciate your contribution to the community and reward you with greater loyalty. There’s nobody more valuable than a repeat customer who’s also an advocate, recommending you to others. If your CSR can lead to that, you’ll see some major value.
However, where you’ll most likely see the most significant impact on your bottom line is through staff engagement and retention. The positives start by you being able to attract the sort of candidates who believe that doing the right thing is as important as doing things right.
Once they’re on board, they’ll feel a greater level of job satisfaction because of their engagement with their colleagues and the community, which will lead to better retention – and we know what a significant cost staff turnover can be to a business.
The most effective CSR programs are those that provide a return to the business. Why? Put simply, they help grow the pie so that there’s more for everyone.
Look at it this way: if you had a choice between doing two similar things, but only one had an upside for you, isn’t the choice clear?
If there is a return to the business from any program or activity, everyone will take it more seriously. It might not become the highest priority, but it will remain a priority for the long term.
Conversely, if there’s nothing in it for the business, it’s only natural that our enthusiasm for being completely altruistic will wane over time, and other things will take precedence.
To make it clear to all involved that there is shared value in your CSR partnerships, it’s a good idea to make the impact of your CSR program measurable. Put some KPIs in place and track performance.
When your people can see that they are making a difference, that your CSR matters, it validates the entire concept and incentives even more buy in.
Those who still think of CSR as giving money away have failed to understand the entire concept.
Any CSR program should be aligned with the values of your business and fully integrated into the way you operate. CSR is not something you add on as an afterthought or because you feel obligated (perhaps because you see others doing it).
It should influence your recruitment and energise your workplace environment through the shared experience of your staff and your partners.
It should have a positive impact on your bottom line by reducing costs and opening new income streams.
But buy in from everyone across the business is crucial. Having people from all levels involved in the design and management of your CSR program is far more likely to make it effective than if it’s imposed on your staff as if it’s a policy to be adhered to.
If you get it right, CSR will become a part of the DNA of your business and deliver positive outcomes all round.
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