Making a Difference in Your Community: How to Build A Corporate Responsibility Strategy For Your Business
This article originally appeared here.
You can measure the success of your business in numerous ways. Of course, there’s the obvious and tangible measurement: profit. But the bottom line isn’t just about making money anymore. You can also measure success by your business’s impact on your community, your employee’s happiness, the environment, and beyond.
A corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy is a comprehensive plan you can create to analyze your impact on your community and measure the success of your business in a different, meaningful way. Not sure about the fundamentals behind CSR or why it’s just important for your business? Grab a pen and a piece of paper. We’ll help you learn how to expand your definition of what success can be.
What Are Corporate Social Responsibility Strategies?
The Stanford Graduate School of Business defines Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as:
an organization’s obligation to consider the interests of their customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the ecology and to consider the social and environmental consequences of their business activities.
Okay, let’s put aside the structured definition and all of its big, fancy words. CSR is your company’s responsibility to be a vessel for goodwill. Try thinking of it like this:
Your company has a brand, right? And that brand has a list of characteristics. You may consider your brand loyal to its customers, knowledgeable about its trade(s), or maybe even have a sense of humor. These are all characteristics that bring your company’s brand to life, making it a lot like a person.
Now, think of a person—it can even be yourself. Would you describe that person as caring, altruistic, passionate, or supportive of others? Many people are. So, your brand can, and should, be too. That’s what CSR is all about. It’s about giving your brand the chance to be caring, altruistic, passionate, or supportive of others, the same way people are. You can do so through various strategies.
Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy Examples
A few common CSR strategies include:
Impact on People: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Strategies for Business
Your CSR strategy should impact and guide the way you recruit and hire talent. Centering your employees’ diverse values and perspectives can serve as an effective vehicle for advancing your overall company by contributing different points of view, reducing your biases, and connecting your organization with diverse communities and new customers.
Questions you can ask yourself to help guide your CSR strategy and its impact on people include:
- Do you consider diversity and inclusion in your people operations strategy?
- Do you give back to your industry by investing in growth and development opportunities for potential or current employees?
- How do you foster an open, communicative environment for your employees?
Impact on Economy: Community Give-Back Programs
Your CSR strategy should impact and guide how you interact with other businesses, your local economy, and your community as a whole. Investing in ethical business partner agreements, prioritizing local suppliers, and giving back to your community can benefit your company in the long run with lower operating costs, increased sales, customer loyalty, employee retention, and more.
Questions you can ask yourself to help guide your CSR strategy and its impact on your local economy include:
- Do you conduct your business in a morally sound and ethical way?
- Do you give back to your community?
- Do you support local businesses in your supply chain?
Impact on Environment: Environmental Sustainability Strategies for Business
Your CSR strategy should impact and guide how your line of business works to minimize its effects on the environment. You can encourage your customers to be environmentally friendly by promoting and selling sustainable products and services, but you need to walk the walk as a company, too. Investing in eco-conscious business practices like reducing energy consumption, lowering your impact on climate change, and managing your waste management is more important than ever before.
Questions you can ask yourself to help guide your CSR strategy and its impact on the environment include:
- Do you track and seek to improve your company’s carbon footprint?
- Do you track and seek to improve your company’s water or energy consumption levels?
- Do you invest in eco-friendly materials and seek to dispose of them sustainably?
The list certainly doesn’t stop there. There are numerous ways your company can make a difference in your community. Focus on your brand’s intentions, cater to the things your people care about and build out a strategy that makes sense to you and your overall business goals.
Impact of Social Responsibility on Business
Being proactive and thoughtful in developing your corporate responsibility strategy takes time and effort. You’re a busy enough person as it is, so why should you put in all that extra work?
Well, with the integration of Schedule Engine’s suite of services, you’ll have a whole lot more time on your hands—time to dedicate to your CSR strategy. Plus, not only is acting on your CSR the right thing to do (morally speaking), but it also has numerous tangible benefits that come along with it.
Positive Impact of CSR
In a recent effort called Project ROI, IOSustainability and Babson College teamed up to aggregate, analyze and report on the results of a portfolio of research projects and case studies examining the returns on investment for Corporate Social Responsibility strategies. Among the findings, the benefits of CSR that can have a positive impact on your business include:
- Giving your brand depth and personality, therefore generating brand love, a positive brand reputation, an increase in positive press/buzz, customer loyalty, and satisfied reviews. Project ROI reports that CSR efforts can impact a potential CSR brand and reputation value of up to 11% of total company value.
- Representing what your employees care about, therefore building a strong company culture, increasing employee satisfaction and employee retention. Project ROI reports a potential increase in worker productivity up to 13% and potential reduced turnover rate of up to 50%.
- Impacting your financial success. Project ROI reports a possible increase in revenue, and/or price premium of up to 20%.
These two benefits can then work together to bring in more business, impacting other forms of success, like your profit.
Corporate Responsibility Strategy Development Action Plan
Try not to get overwhelmed by CSR. Begin thinking long-term and view CSR as a journey, not a destination. Here is an action plan to help you get started today on making a world of difference with your business initiatives:
- Define your values
What matters most to you and your business? How do you rank your values and what your company stands for? What causes and community issues keep you up at night? Go further than just thinking about it—talk about it! Schedule time to brainstorm with your teams, and listen to your employees share their passionate causes. The areas that come out of these discussions can be the foundation of your corporate social responsibility strategy.
- Think of ways in which your values can turn into actions
Now’s your chance to get creative! At this point, you should know what you and your employees truly care about, so how can you turn these company values into actionable initiatives? How do you include your customers in this journey?
According to a Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of customers would purchase a product or service based on the company supporting a social or environmental issue. To figure out what your customers care about, you can look to peer groups, similar organizations, and trade associations that inspire you. (Shoutouts to a few that inspire me: ACCA, WHVACR, Tools and Tiaras, and so many others!)
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your customers directly, whether through a survey, focus group, social media engagement, or the timeless face-to-face interaction with new customers waiting to be convinced to become loyal customers.
Actionable ideas can include fundraising, social events, launching volunteer initiatives, nonprofit partnerships, and more.
Here are a few specific examples:
- Set a target goal to lower your water or energy consumption by 2025. Incentivize your clients to do the same by offering to donate to a predefined charity on their behalf if they hit the target goals.
- Promise to partner with an X amount of local businesses each year and allocate your budget to support smaller partners.
- Heatwave during the summer? Have your team spend a day installing AC units for free in areas of need. Or do the same with heating units during the winter.
- Pledge to plant a certain number of trees in the next five years.
- Plan your values-to-action approach
Planning a CSR strategy takes time, effort, and buy-in from your team. Lead with empathy when pursuing your CSR strategy and think about all the moving pieces involved sooner rather than later.
Many companies opt to create a foundation linked directly to their organization, or they sign up to partner with one or more 5013c charities to support their CSR strategy. Whether you are creating a foundation, partnering with a charity, or just linking up with a local business or volunteer program, you can make a difference.
When developing action items as a part of your CSR strategy, be authentic, realistic, and follow through. According to Charities.org, 65% of Americans say when a company takes a stand on an issue, they will research to see if it is authentic. That number increases to 76% when it comes to Millennials. So, did you promise to donate a percentage of your profits to a nonprofit last month? People want to see follow-through.
- Execute and maintain
Once you know what you want to do and how you’re going to do it, you need to execute. Encourage teammates to take part in the strategy you have designed. As an employee, being a part of a company’s corporate social responsibility strategy should never feel like an obligation; it should feel like a reward.
Nobody likes burnout, so remind your employees of the positive impact they are creating, but emphasize the importance of work-life balance: allow them to take part in CSR efforts during business hours, or offer them PTO back if you ask for their personal time.
Taking these small steps will drastically improve your CSR strategy execution, help your people build an emotional attachment to the great work they’re doing, and will maintain their dedicated involvement over time.
- Share your success!
Incorporating a CSR strategy into your overall business strategy helps you build brand love, improve your reputation, increase your positive press, and more. Don’t wait for your local newspaper to help you reap those benefits.
After doing some goodwill in your community, go ahead and share it with the world by posting it on your social media channels, sending out a press release, writing a blog post, or mentioning it in your email marketing campaigns.
Doing good is good for the soul AND good for business. It also makes for a great working environment for your employees. Why wouldn’t you do it? Start planning your CSR strategy today.
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