Embracing Transparency By Practicing Corporate Social Responsibility

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Peter is the CEO and co-founder of Seniors Helpers, a leading national non-medical in-home senior care franchise.

It used to be that you bought a hamburger from, say, McDonald’s. You ate it, probably really enjoyed it, and went on with your day, never giving it a second thought.

But now, when customers buy that combo, many want to know what McDonald’s is doing with the money they just spent on that $5 Big Mac. They want to know if the burger was wrapped in sustainable, eco-friendly packaging. They want to know if, behind the scenes, there are fair labor practices that encourage diversity and inclusion. They want to know if some of that money is going toward philanthropic efforts.

And you know what? These are all good things.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) became a business buzzword back in the 1990s. It’s an umbrella term that is essentially an accountability checker for organizations. Transparency and CSR go hand in hand. As a practice, it’s essentially about operating in a fishbowl for all to see just how ethical your organization is.

I can’t help but share a line from a recent Gallup article that succinctly expresses the importance of this concept. “Corporations are awakening to their role in society and their influence on the planet—and their need to be responsive to it all.”

Working For Change

Being part of this changing marketplace is necessary for survival. Adapting to concerns means understanding what’s important to stakeholders, employees and the public.

Granted, these issues have always been important. But let’s credit millennials (born 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born 1997-2010) for making the push. And with millennials currently making up the largest portion of the workforce, they may not stop pushing until they affect more change.

Deloitte released the results of a 2023 Gen Z/millennial study that looks at the satisfaction of this workforce and frankly, it’s just so-so. Out of 22,000 respondents to this survey in 44 countries, those polled feel like there’s generally been progress regarding corporate social responsibility, but there’s still work to be done. Results show that only 44% of millennials think business has impacted society in a positive way and are pleased with the progress.

The Positive Effects Of CSR

Gone are the days when companies could sweep things under the rug. Big Brother is not only watching, but reacting. Consumers have information about companies at their fingertips, social media is giving them a voice and people are listening and challenging the way things have always been done.

There’s a demand for performance reporting, and proactive organizations are faring much better. Harvard Business School shared some eye-opening numbers to show the positive effect of CSR. Companies recognize how important disclosure is, and that’s why 90% of companies on the S&P 500 index published recent reports. Conversely, in 2011, only 20% of those companies published reports.

The numbers also indicate that 70% of Americans believe it’s either “somewhat” or “very important” for companies to make the world a better place, compared with 37% who think profit is more important. But think about it: If your customers are pleased with your company’s track record, won’t that mean an improved bottom line? Reputation Institute says 91% of consumers want to engage with brands with strong CSR.

Not only does this public transparency report bode well for you as a company regarding customer satisfaction, but it goes a long way in improving brand value, trust and image, which pleases stakeholders.

Now think about how this enhances your internal culture, equating to improved recruitment and retention. The Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study shows that 64% of millennials won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have a strong CSR, and Gen Z wants to work for companies that take a stand on social justice issues. In other words, people want purpose in their lives and want their careers to align with that.

Make Or Grow Your CSR

If you want to strengthen or improve your CSR, start here:

Do the work.

Research initiatives your company may need to incorporate for CSR that fall under environmental concerns, philanthropy, ethics and labor practices. This is a customized project. Giving 1% of sales to preserving the environment works for Patagonia, for example, but may not work for you. Think about the impact you want to make, then make a plan about how to get there.

Develop a code of ethics.

You’ve got to get buy-in from your team. Find out what they’re looking for and what’s important to them. This can include your diversity and inclusion policies but should coincide with your vision and mission. This serves as a gauge of acceptable behavioral practices for you and your team.

Shout it out.

Anyone who encounters your brand needs to know what you stand for. Use your website and social media to describe your social responsibility. People want and need to know what sets you apart in the marketplace. About 66% of consumers want to know about the brands they engage with, and nearly 60% want to hear about it on social media.

Find Your Purpose

This is important stuff. I’ve made a career of working for purpose-driven companies because it’s meaningful. The entire purpose of my business is social responsibility.

No matter what your business is, the significance of CSR is making a commitment to have a positive effect in your community. You can do that by always putting people first.


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