Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a way of businesses ensuring that they are acting ethically and doing social, environmental and economic good, beyond what is required by law.
It’s becoming a more common expectation by stakeholders that organisations will operate responsibly, and have an integrated CSR strategy that forms part of their business model.
Introducing a CSR policy and embedding it in everything you do is a great way to differentiate your business and to attract customers and talent. Businesses not thinking about and acting on CSR are in danger of getting left behind.
Where to begin with corporate social responsibility
CSR has evolved over the years – in the past, it was seen largely as being about big companies taking part in charity work solely for the purposes of good publicity. Now there is the popular belief that organisations have a duty to the marketplace to act with care, going above and beyond.
The best place to start when considering CSR is to work out who your stakeholders are (customers, employees, owners, shareholders, suppliers, the local community, and so on) and then performing some analysis of their primary needs. Consider your location, what’s important to you as a business (beyond making a profit) and your unique selling points (USPs) or what these could be.
Examples of corporate social responsibility
Whatever the size of your business you can start taking action. There are many ways that you can do this, some of which you are probably already doing:
The way you treat your employees
- Promote healthy living and well being for your staff with better work-life balance options and flexible working conditions.
- Offer inclusive opportunities and facilities for people with different types of needs.
- Offer entry-level jobs or training opportunities.
- Ensure you pay the living wage as a minimum and have no gender pay gap.
- Train your staff and employees about CSR and ask for their ideas.
The way you act in your community
- Get involved with local community projects.
- Share some of your facilities at times when you are not making use of them.
- Volunteer your time or services to local social enterprises or charities and support your employees to do the same.
The way you help the environment
- Act to reduce waste, recycle, and don’t buy or use single-use plastic.
- Choose suppliers with green credentials (for instance for your office supplies).
- Use public transport, car share and cycle to meetings where possible.
- Do a weekly litter pick near your premises.
- Plant trees and encourage local wildlife.
The commercial benefits of CSR
Elkington’s Triple Bottom Line model, encourages businesses to measure success against more than just financial factors, but also against social and environmental factors. Believing that business achievements come from more than just profit, but also from the impact on people and the planet.
But it’s likely that a focus on CSR will also increase your profit margins and here’s how:
- Going green could save you money on utility bills and office supplies.
- Flexible working conditions and strategies that put the focus on people will make a happier team which is proven to make a more productive team.
- You’ll be having a positive impact on your community which your business will also benefit from.
- CSR initiatives make great stories for publicity across your marketing channels (for example, press releases, social media, email newsletters) and although this shouldn’t be the sole objective behind your activities, it shouldn’t be overlooked.
- Implementing your new CSR strategy will lead you to new contacts and to have original messages to talk about which will, in turn, allow you to tap into different markets, attracting new customers and team members.
As part of your CSR strategy, decide on ways to monitor and report on each of the CSR factors that make up your policy.
Actions speak louder than words
As far as CSR goes, customers, employees and other stakeholders will continue to become more demanding.
Your strategy for CSR should take a top-down approach and filter across the whole business, not just be a policy written on your website for show.
People will not be easily fooled and it is likely to have a detrimental effect if they believe it is just smoke and mirrors. Embrace the changes fully to maximise the benefits and get your whole team involved.
Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.