The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not a new one, but it is only in the last dozen years or so that it has become more widely discussed, understood and even (at least partially), lawfully enshrined.
CSR is generally understood to mean that corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications.
These span governance, safety, local impact, human rights, sustainability, corruption and more.
With many consumers now showing increased levels of understanding of the difference between business and responsible business – and basing their spending decisions accordingly – it is more crucial than ever for company owners to ensure they are fulfilling their obligations as good corporate citizens.
Below are six ways that every business can step up their CSR game.
1. Set a mission that includes CSR
A mission underpins the core values of every business. If your mission statement outlines the fundamental goals around the company’s output without any mention of the social and environmental responsibilities that need to be considered in the process, then it’s time for an update.
A mission provides an umbrella statement under which the company’s policies can then be crafted. Employees need to understand and be on board with the core company objectives, before policy can be effective.
2. Include all employment levels in the CSR team
It can be tempting to make CSR the exclusive province of management. However, like any successful management strategy, a CSR process needs both high level management vision and support – and buy-in at all levels of the company.
Therefore a CSR leadership team needs to include representatives from the board of directors and top management/owners as well as employees from a variety of different areas within the organisation.
Senior personnel, human resources, environmental services, health and safety, community relations, legal affairs, finance, marketing and communications should have representation.
Also on the team should be front-line staff in these areas and any other personnel who may become key players involved in implementing the CSR approach the firm eventually develops.
3. Put your money where your mouth is
If investing in outside education and/or consulting is what it takes to establish an effective program the first time, then it’s definitely worth doing. Getting things as right as possible from the start will save copious amounts of time and money down the track.
Investing a portion of the company’s profits back into making the business more socially responsible also send a very clear and direct message to staff, clients and stakeholders that – when it comes to CSR – you mean business.
4. Make your space as green as possible
It’s all well and good to have a range of exciting social, charitable and human rights projects on the boil, but if the physical space your company occupies is operating at 110% energy and resource consumption, then it’s a fundamental mismatch with what you are attempting to achieve.
There are a plethora of options when it comes to making your office more sustainable, from utilising recycled products and energy efficient machines to proper data destruction, ewaste disposal and creating a more flexible work from home policy.
Doing a thorough workplace sustainability assessment and reducing the business’s footprint should be one of the first steps taken towards discharging corporate social responsibility.
5. Spread the word
Contemporary customers want to spend their money with socially responsible organisations, so getting the word out about your programs will only serve you in a positive fashion.
Advertising in a range of media and delivering effective marketing campaigns will be extremely beneficial and, in some cases, crucial to the success of your programs.
Social media is not just a great way to spread the word about what you’re doing, it’s also an excellent way to solicit the ideas, experiences, suggestions and concerns of your customers and potential customers, and to get them invested and engaged in your CSR projects.
The best way to reach the most people is to spread your message across multiple platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even a YouTube channel if appropriate. These ‘good news’ stories create goodwill and enhance loyalty with your customers.
6. Monitor and assess continuously
Once you’ve established policies, developed an effective team, got the staff on board and advertised your programs to the public, it might seem like the hard yards are complete when, in fact, the real work has only just begun.
Strategies that appear sound in theory can fall apart once implemented and it can be easy to stray from your original ideas once things are up and running.
Keeping an internal scorecard to monitor the effectiveness of your various campaigns is a great way to make sure that the hard work you’ve put in is likely to yield the best results in the long term.
Be regular and brutally honest in self-evaluation and remember to come back to the company’s mission. Do the initiatives still mesh with the company’s core values and objectives?