Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a commitment by companies to incorporate social and environmental considerations into their operation. Most importantly, to do this in a way that achieves a balance between their stakeholder expectations and their CSR activities. Here’s how to win at corporate social responsibility every time.
How companies approach corporate social responsibility varies between organizations. But with 94% of Generation Z agreeing that business should be socially responsible and 90% of shoppers globally more likely to be loyal to brands that take their pro-social objectives seriously, it is not an area that companies should gloss over.
It’s no longer a choice but considered a responsibility for every business.
With a dramatically changing community landscape, CSR has become even more of an issue in 2022 than ever before. In light of the far-reaching effects of climate-related and other calamities, companies are becoming involved beyond writing a cheque and issuing a press release for feel-good brownie points.
Forward planning and active involvement in disaster planning are critical trends for CSR in 2022. Some take it a step further by developing and maintaining emergency response strategies in areas where their suppliers and employees reside, including partnerships with locally positioned NGOs.
Check out this article from The CSR Journal that outlines their five predicted CSR trends for 2022 for more insight.
The question is why corporate social responsibility is important to business owners. Why go to all this trouble to not only look good but be agents of change?
Businesses had to change when the average consumer, almost overnight, could see what they were doing. With information accessible to everyone connected to the Internet, the impact businesses and their supply chains were having on the environment and communities became apparent in a way that it hadn’t previously.
Consumers started to purchase according to their conscience, and buying loyalties shifted towards corporate social responsibility.
CSR did not begin with the Internet. It was a conversation that started back in the 1950s but became more defined by Archie Carroll in 1991 as a “Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility” with four key areas.
We can add a fifth to the pyramid, one that wouldn’t have been seen as relevant when it was conceived, and that is:
Customers increasingly demand accountability and responsibility from their favourite brands and are prone to switching their allegiances if they don’t measure up. This trend is a critical driving force behind the popularity of CSR activities.
Some businesses genuinely want to incorporate CSR as their mandate, but others see it as an intelligent business move. Regardless of which camp you fall into, ignore the consumer at your own peril.
Let’s have a quick look at the tangible benefits that businesses gain from their CSR initiatives:
Lip service to social and environmental sustainability is not enough. Consumers are savvy and connected and will see through any disingenuous attempt to harness CSR goodwill. Instead, take a close look at your brand, your suppliers, and your local community. What opportunities are there where your contribution can have a positive influence?
What causes are you passionate about? A paper manufacturer can support saving or planting trees or offset the carbon emissions generated by transporting their products with an equitable, sustainable, or regenerative program.
Use your CSR as an opportunity to give back, and while creating it, take the opportunity to consult with employees and community members. It helps to rally their participation after implementation.
The key to participation is making it easy. Generally, you will need to envision various ways to enable people to become involved. Generational differences can help guide you. Text messaging may be ideal for younger folks to get involved, but older community members may need an alternative method to be a part of your program.
Be creative, be inclusive, and don’t forget to get your workplace invested in what you are doing because they will help to spread the word and encourage the broader community.
Allocate an amount to your CSR program at the beginning. Your CSR initiatives shouldn’t harm your ROI. Remember, you can expand your social and environmental sustainability investment over time. Starting is essential, and expansion is the goal.
Corporate social responsibility isn’t all about profit. It’s about contributing towards sustainable programs to offset your carbon footprint. It’s about helping your consumers in times of calamity and being a responsible community member. You need to find the balance between profit and CSR that fits your business and accept that investing a portion of your profit will reap immeasurable benefits.
Don’t be shy. Tell people about what you are doing in every way possible. It will increase participation and loyalty. Talk about how proud you are of your involvement and achievements, highlight employees that are excelling in participation. Your CSR is a marketing opportunity, and talking about it will attract positive feedback, new consumers, and investors that align with your causes.
With all that information in hand, let’s summarise the key points.
Balance is what you need between a CSR that reflects your core business values, engages your employees and community, fits into an acceptable budget, and appeases the profit gods (your shareholders).
Use the measurable benefits in a profit/loss exercise that demonstrates how your business can thrive by being socially engaged. And the ace card that we all have to play is that it is all of our responsibility to act in the current climate crisis. Corporations don’t get an out card because they want to profit. You as a business are responsible for offsetting the damage your business causes, directly and indirectly.
Don’t do it alone, however. Use the creation of your CSR as a companywide project, encourage ideas, and make sure everyone is heard. Include community consultation, and a plan will come to mind. Networking and collaboration are central to a great Corporate Responsibility Plan and are the essence that will drive it to success.
And, lots of programs are available now ready to partner with you, there is no wheel inventing needed just some research into the causes that make your blood pump and your heartbeat.
Your carbon footprint needs offsetting, and the action is now! Your community supports your business, provides the profits that you reap, and it is your responsibility to give back. It’s time to win at CSR and ensure that the future communities inherit a world that has regenerated and is sustainable, not destroyed by apathy and inaction.
When you see the forest and the trees, then you know your environmental sustainability efforts are working!
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