Corporate social responsibility [CSR] has become a central theme for organisations in recent years.
Amid a growing demand for businesses to make a positive impact, and demonstrate their values through action, clients are becoming more discerning about who they want to do business with, while both potential and existing employees prefer companies who are committed to positive core values.
Long-term focus and meaningful CSR will bring profit
HRMI’s top priorities: sustainability, ESG and achieving net zero
ESG and the role of HR
Implementing a successful CSR strategy is an ongoing process but doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. Below are five straightforward changes you can make to your CSR initiatives today.
CSR initiatives that come exclusively from the top down often lack engagement and buy-in from employees. Instead, a ‘bottom-up’ approach gives staff a chance to have meaningful input on the charities, volunteering or projects your company will support.
Listen and take note of the causes that are meaningful to your team and create an environment where your employees feel empowered to speak about the charities and causes that are close to them.
You will get a better idea of what will excite and engage your team, and it may also be an eye-opener to discover the causes your employees already have connections to in the community.
Bake it into the business
CSR strategies tend to fail when they are not fully integrated into the business.
Ensuring that your company isn’t merely paying lip service to its espoused values, but instead actively living them is crucial to making a real impact. This might include values of diversity and inclusion, the gender pay gap, creating an inclusive environment for disabled or neurodivergent employees, or other environmental and societal concerns.
If employees can see your business is committed to operating with purpose and living by its values, they are much more likely to get on board with company-wide values.
The ability to report the social and business value CSR activities are having is incredibly important.
Getting this right means being able to communicate to stakeholders, employees and the community on the successes of your employees and organisation.
When reporting on the impact of your company initiatives, it’s important to look at the big picture, and the overarching purpose of a particular initiative or project. It is of course useful to collect valuable data, such as the amount of money raised, but it is also important to contextualise this impact with real, human-driven stories and narratives, or perhaps even case studies that provide qualitative examples of your work.
Ensuring employees are consistently engaged with company-wide CSR activities means regularly communicating the impact and success of these projects and initiatives to them.
It’s important to provide regular updates and encouragement, as well as acknowledgement of employee efforts via company social media or whatever channels are most utilised by employees.
Consistent communication is key to crafting powerful brand messaging and demonstrating the commitment of your business to its stated values. It shows appreciated for participating employees, and encourages others to get involved.
Your business does not operate in a vacuum, and chances are there are already many positive initiatives going on within your community.
Taking some time to identify what organisations are already doing around you and offering the support of your business is a powerful way to effect meaningful change within your local community.
This could simply mean a financial donation, volunteering, or even donating the time and skills of your employees or business resources to a charity organisation in need.
The most effective CSR initiatives are built on a foundation of mutual understanding and benefit, and understanding what your company can bring to the table is important for developing long-term sustainable relationships with other organisations and charities, and avoiding one-off gestures that can come across as shallow PR stunts.
Emma O’Brien is CEO of Digital Transformation Services Agency, Embridge Consulting