Most companies nowadays have heard about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. Started by and usually connected to the bigger companies of this world (as the name would suggest) such initiatives are sometimes seen as not related to the core business and hard to manage. Both could not be further from the truth.
Research has shown a direct correlation between success in terms of social impact and success with investor evaluation, customer acquisition and employee retention. About 80% of consumers say they would buy a product from an unknown brand if it had strong social impact commitments. The Same percentage of young employees want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. And it would seem that businesses are getting the message: recent research shows that roughly 78% of UK business donate to charities in some form.
So what can those businesses do in terms of social initiatives to satisfy investors and customers, and how do they make CSR an integral part of their strategy and employee engagement program?
First step: you need to identify the charity causes that align with your business strategically, rather than just any charity at random. There are many good examples of successful strategic alignments: Tesco was criticised by the media about obesity issues, so they partnered with British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK to support healthier lifestyles; Royal Mail partnered with Prostate Cancer as male employees are the majority of their workforce. This kind of alignment requires buy-in from senior management – a key factor for a successful business social program.
Second, make your initiative official. Create a policy signed by the board and employees - it will bring the whole company to an even start. That is also a great exercise to make sure you comply with any government recommendations and policies and keep improving your programme. A free tool available to all companies is the B Corp certification framework. The framework is an amazing checklist that will help you create a CSR programme, and give you ideas on how your company can be more socially responsible.
Third, employ a team member to take care of the process. Remember that CSR is now a core part of your business, approved by senior management, welcomed by your employees and expected by your customers and investors. In order for your CSR activities to drive your business and brand forward, they need to be executed just like any other branch of your business. If you do not have the resources or think your program is too small for a dedicated person, simply add it to someone’s role – this could be someone working in HR, Internal Comms or Marketing. If you have multiple locations, you can ask one team member from each local office to volunteer as the local CSR Champion.
The last step is about running the programme and telling the world about it. Just like any other business initiative, CSR activities need to be well scheduled and planned. All initiatives (from marathons to bake-offs in the office, to volunteering days) should be planned in advance to ensure maximum buy-in and success. Make sure you have synced up with HR so that all employees are aware of your great plans and with Marketing and PR to promote those externally, in order to increase your brand awareness and ROI of the programme.
It goes without saying that online tools and social media are crucial to the success of your CSR initiatives during the whole process. Your customers and employees are online, and they expect your company to be up to the newest trends. There are a number of online tools (including KindLink) you can use to manage and promote your social initiatives, organise fundraising and volunteering days, and record the data of how much your company is giving back.