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Peter Baines

Stop just giving money to charity and go ‘full CSR’ with purpose

Donating to charitable causes is, of course, an extremely positive thing to do. Every not-for-profit needs more funding so that it can do more good for more people.

The thing is, anyone can donate money – and feel good about it – but businesses have the opportunity to do more than that. Businesses can make a significant ongoing commitment to make our world a better place … and be more successful as a result.

The best CSR initiatives are those that lead to more custom as well as social good. Because more sales equals more profits which, in turn, provide the means to deliver even more positive outcomes.

Corporate social responsibility can work for any company

Don’t be put off by the word ‘corporate’. Most CSR efforts don’t require multimillion-dollar initiatives. Any small or medium business can implement a CSR program that has a positive impact on its workplace and bottom line, while doing good.

Small businesses shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of putting CSR initiatives in place, even though it’s understandable that they might be worried about making a financial commitment without the prospect of a direct return on the investment, particularly in the short term.

Always look at CSR with a broader and more long-term view.

Because customers pay attention to the way companies react to social and political issues, any business that embeds and promotes CSR initiatives will be regarded more positively, leading to increased custom and profit.

By demonstrating that you care, you improve your brand reputation – and, in many cases, connection to your community – and encourage repeat business, which is a good formula for a sustainable return on investment.

Identify the purpose and make it clear

There are a few different ways you can go with a CSR program, so it’s important that you work out what initiatives fit comfortably with your business and make sure they’re easy for your staff to understand and get on board with. In fact, consulting your staff from the start is a very good idea.

If there’s a feeling that your business could recycle more and/or create less waste, those are things that are quite tangible. You can see and measure your progress.

If you could source more of your materials or ingredients locally, thereby reducing both the cost and pollution associated with transportation, while it’s a little harder for people to see it’s no less meaningful or relatable.

If you offer a service that would be valuable to a not-for-profit – accounting, legal advice, marketing, transport, cleaning, etc – offering a number of days or weeks per year of pro bono work can be extremely valuable to a charity partner and just as rewarding for your team.

The key is figuring out what will work best for you. That will not only make your CSR initiatives more authentic but also easier to sustain and more likely to grow organically over time.

Make a start, plan for more

Whether you start with one foundational initiative or feel comfortable implementing a multi-faceted program, just don’t risk overreaching and potentially not being able to fulfil your goals.

It’s much better for all involved if you have an attainable target so that you and your team can get used to having CSR as part of the fabric of your business and benefit from the feel-good factor of having achieved something good.

If you happen to exceed expectations, all the better for building enthusiasm to reach further.

Think about a multi-step plan, starting simple and rolling out other initiatives over time.

What ‘going full CSR with purpose’ looks like

While it’s the polar opposite of a small business, what LEGO committed to in September 2020 is a good blueprint for a staged, multi-layered approach to sustainability initiatives. As the company details on its website:

  • A major investment in projects that will turn LEGO into a carbon-neutral company, educate children on environmental issues with ‘learning through play’ initiatives, and other strategies to help the company reduce its footprint on the globe.
  • By 2025 all LEGO packaging will be made from renewable or recycled materials, will be made as efficiently as possible, and will be easy for consumers to recycle.
  • To make all core LEGO products from sustainable materials by 2030.
  • The introduction of LEGO Replay, a step toward creating a circular economy by providing consumers with the chance to pass on their LEGO bricks to children in need of play.
  • The LEGO Group partners with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as part of [its] effort to reduce carbon emissions in [its] manufacturing and supply chain operations, and to promote global action on climate change.

That might seem like a lot – and it is – but it’s all appropriate, meaningful, and achievable for the company.

The return on investment will come

An effective CSR program, one that is implemented with strategy and alignment between values, will return many positive outcomes to the business, the community, and the charity partners who form part of the program.

Whatever you decide to do, you’re likely to see:

  • Improved staff engagement and morale
  • Greater staff retention (while becoming a more attractive employer)
  • Positive brand differentiation
  • Stronger customer loyalty
  • Reduced costs through efficiencies
  • Initiatives and innovation providing opportunities to reach new markets

Nice as it is to donate a portion of your profits to charity, you won’t see anything like those positive outcomes unless you go full CSR.

Don’t miss out on the real opportunity presented from CSR. Book an initial consultation with us and find out how our CSR Audit can transform the way you are doing charitable giving. Make CSR the profit centre of your business.

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