Last updated December 23, 2020
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming a core business strategy for many companies. It’s proven to increase customer loyalty, retain employees, increase the bottom line, and all while doing incredible things for the world.
Nearly half of all consumers are looking towards brands to lead the way in making the world a better place. It’s not only consumers; a Glassdoor survey found that 75% of employees between 18-34 expect their employers to take a stand on important issues. The influence businesses have, and the responsibilities placed on them today is massive.
Before diving into a CSR initiative, it’s important to take a step back and consider a complete CSR strategy. It takes deliberate thought to navigate, and we hope this article helps shed some light on how you can implement a successful CSR strategy for your company.
There are four types of CSR categories, and a CSR strategy helps you define which one is best for your business, ways in which you can implement it, and track the results of your efforts.
The four areas of CSR are:
A good CSR strategy builds a business case around how your chosen areas of CSR can integrate into your business growth plan, and makes sure that your initiative stays on track, hitting every KPI along the way.
Linking your CSR strategy to your company purpose and values is vital. Once you’ve identified them, this will enable you to align your CSR strategy to it. You can then show how it’s contributing to your long term strategy and support continued investment in your CSR program.
There are a few different ways CSR can integrate into business strategy. It depends on your company needs and goals. Look at your company’s strategic goals to help you shape your CSR strategy, for example, whether it’s to have an impact, engage or retain employees, or to engage consumers.
In fact, 68% of online consumers in the U.S. and UK would consider ending a relationship with a brand because of poor or misleading CSR. It can, therefore integrate into your sales growth strategy or customer success strategy.
Or, if your business is seeking investment, then trends are showing that companies with global sustainable development strategies are more likely to win investment opportunities.
The truth is, CSR can actively help a business work toward a larger profit margin while doing great things; it’s a win-win.
A CSR strategy is not built by one person alone. A collective of productive heads is much better than one. However, the project certainly needs one core manager to lead the way, assign responsibilities and ensure everyone stays on track.
Some companies have a CSR department, and some assign CSR to Human Resources teams or Office Managers. Depending on your goals of using CSR, it can also be a responsibility of marketing or communications teams.
Deloitte found that CSR is now a “CEO-level business strategy—defining the organisation’s very identity” and 46% of survey respondents said “CEOs and top executives play the most prominent roles in driving societal impact,” or are the main drivers of CSR strategies.
Let’s dive into the thick of it. Above, we looked at what a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is, here are the steps you need to take to ensure your strategy runs smoothly.
Especially today, CSR can mean many different things to different people. It depends on someone’s culture and past experiences with CSR that will determine their opinion and definition of it.
At this stage, it’s important to speak to and understand all stakeholders’ concerns; leadership, employees, consumers, professional organisations or unions, local communities or environmental groups. Once you’ve understood concerns, you can consider where there is a match, and how your CSR program can address these.
Define or redefine what CSR means to your business, and make sure the entire business is on the same page. Once you know everyone understands what CSR is, then you can start discussing it without bias or misconceptions.
Before your CSR strategy even begins, you need to get the project approved, and to do that requires buy-in from internal stakeholders.
It’s important to spend a lot of time researching the benefits of CSR and find some example businesses that have profited from having a successful CSR plan in place.
Once you have an idea of the ways you can benefit from CSR, this will help guide your business case—spoiler alert for step three—to one that is more specific for your business.
You may have seen this one coming, but launching a CSR plan does require a certain amount of budget and human resources from your business. You can certainly use tools to optimise the CSR experience, however, until you get to that point you’re going to need people power.
Put together a business case for implementing a CSR strategy and make sure you include all of the potential benefits a unique CSR initiative can bring to your business.
Your business case doesn’t need to include the initiative you’re going to be launching or even the tools and people needed to create success. It needs to be broader, cover what CSR can do for your business, and the initial resources required to kick the project off.
Next up on your list for implementing and launching a CSR plan is setting goals. These goals and KPIs showcase your strategy is positively impacting your business, and that your CSR project is on track.
In the early stages, they can be anything from winning board member buy-in, have 100% of employees understand what CSR is, host 3-5 meetings with potential CSR SaaS providers, ehem we’re right here, to name a few.
Further down the line, they can be more KPI-orientated like employee engagement rates, online brand sentiment, or lower customer churn.
All of these goals are designed around making progress to launching.
A current analysis includes a full review of any CSR initiative you currently have running, be it officially or unofficially, within your company.
Perhaps employees have set up their form of a socially responsible initiative that can be something bigger with new support from the company. For example, fundraisers like bake sales, community running groups, volunteering days, in-office recycling, meat-free Fridays, or eliminating single-use plastics.
Or, perhaps there are small acts of kindness floating around the office that inspire a broader initiative idea. For example, an employee of the month award, team brunches, budding office plant life or wellbeing initiatives.
If you’ve been hosting CSR initiatives for a while, but they just haven’t been taking off, then look at the project tools and communication styles you’re using to support it. Perhaps there are some operational changes to the cause you can introduce to help it run smoother.
Try to identify what may be the problem with the current solutions you have and find new ways to approach the problem. Look at all of your current areas of CSR and note down what you currently have. Bring these pieces together to form your strategy – so that they connect to what your employees are interested in and the broader business strategy, including long term goals.
You have the benefits of what CSR can bring to your business, you’ve won company buy-in, now it’s time to find your initiative and CSR tools.
This stage includes researching social and environmental initiatives you think will be a good fit for your company mission and vision and those that answer employees’ values.
Corporate Social Responsibility research also includes looking at the initiatives of others in your industry. How are other businesses aligning CSR to their company purpose? It could inspire some great ideas or possible collaborations of your own.
Lastly, this step includes different tools you may need to support your CSR efforts. Consider technology that empowers your employees to take the initiative and communication tools to help stay on top of everything.
Once you’ve done all of the above, you should be in a comfortable position to launch your CSR campaign— it’s potentially the most important part of your CSR plan.
You get one shot at launching it as effectively as possible, so it’s the time to make it count. Your CSR launch needs to be communicated clearly to the right stakeholders; this includes:
Make sure that each of these groups has a clear communication plan and priority so that your initiative launches with maximum impact. For example, your employees need to know the ins and outs of your initiative before your fans and followers.
Last on your list is the maintenance of your CSR campaign or campaigns. What KPIs or goals have you set? Consider all types of goals.
For example, if your initiative was to plant 100 trees by planting one for every time an employee took a bike to work instead of driving, then consider every goal around this goal.
Consider your larger Corporate Social Responsibility mission, but also consider the smaller KPIs and data points that help you get there.
It’s also a good idea to collect qualitative feedback alongside quantitative feedback. Ask employees how they’re feeling towards your CSR initiatives. If they’re not engaging , then how can you adapt them to make them more relatable, offer them more choice, and win employees’ interest?
Implementing a CSR strategy is so important to ensuring your Corporate Social Responsibility initiative is effective. There’s a lot more to a good CSR plan, and it needs to be supported with data, crisis management and a grander plan to benefit the business.
By following these eight steps to implementing a CSR strategy, you’re giving your company the sturdiest foundations possible to launch and run a successful CSR program; both for business and the cause or causes you’re supporting.