Ready to kick start your CSR program? Download the guide to get started ⟶

Last updated October 6, 2021

8 Simple Steps to Create a CSR Strategy in 2021

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 corporate social responsibility 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.

What is a CSR strategy?

A corporate social responsibility strategy (CSR) is the total plan a business has to build, execute and optimize its social responsibilities initiatives.

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: 

  • Philanthropic responsibility
  • Environmental responsibility 
  • Ethical responsibility 
  • Economic responsibility 

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.  

Why is a CSR strategy important?

A CSR strategy is essential to ensure your business delivers effective corporate social responsibility initiatives. Having a CSR strategy enables your business to remain goal-driven for CSR, and to know what success looks like for your initiatives.

Your CSR strategy can thread into your business growth plan. When you create a CSR strategy you align CSR with other business goals like improving employee engagement, increasing investor appeal, and solidifying your brand reputation. CSR done well can indirectly (positively) affect a number of ROI-centered goals.

How does CSR integrate into business strategy?

Linking your CSR strategy to your company’s 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’s 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 engage consumers.

CSR can help with employee retention and employer branding, so can be aligned with your Human Resources strategy. It’s also shown to increase customer retention and loyalty.

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. 

csr practices brand loyaltySource

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. 

Who decides the CSR strategy? 

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 the responsibility of marketing or communications teams. 

csr strategy decisionSource

Deloitte found that CSR is now a “CEO-level business strategy—defining the organization’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. 

Ultimate purpose driven CSR guide 1024x538

How to Create a successful CSR Strategy 

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.

1. Define the concept 

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 organizations 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. 

2. Understand the benefits for social

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. 

3. Get project approval

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 optimize 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. 

present your CSR strategySource

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. 

4. Set project goals

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, ahem 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.

5. Run a current CSR analysis

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. 

CSR analysisSource

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.

6. Research your CSR initiatives

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 digital CSR tools

This stage includes researching social and environmental initiatives you think will be a good fit for your company’s 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. 

7. Launch your CSR campaign

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 time to make it count. Your CSR launch needs to be communicated clearly to the right stakeholders; this includes: 

  • Employees
  • Shareholders or investors
  • External stakeholders, partners, & local communities
  • Press 
  • Customers 
  • Fans and followers 

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.

Johnson & Johnson CSRSource

8. Manage your program to success

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. 

  • How many trees have you planted? 
  • How many individual employees have biked to work? 
  • Has your employee engagement rate and happiness increased? 

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 about 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? 

CSR Strategy best practices

When creating your corporate social responsibility strategy, there are a few best practices to help make the process smoother and more efficient.

Define your WHY: Your corporate social responsibility strategy needs a reason for being. From day one, align on the purpose and vision for the strategy. It will help define every step you make in its creation.

Assemble a stellar team: Efficient CSR initiatives need top talent to get them on the way. Assemble an internal team from multiple departments to help you build this strategy. Socially responsible companies start with socially responsible employees.

Ask for feedback: For CSR programs to be successful you’ll need feedback. This comes from your employees. Ask employees what they would like to see from potential CSR programs, and understand the social or environmental challenges they’re passionate about.

Strategize & benchmark: It’s time to look toward socially responsible companies for guidance. All of the best CSR leaders had to start somewhere. Look at ethical business practices that are working well for similar companies, understand their successful CSR initiatives, and benchmark your own corporate strategy against them.

Soft launch: A strategic corporate social responsibility launch needs to be released in phases. Align your internal CSR leaders on the launch calendar and start with a soft launch. This acts like market feedback research and gives your team time to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Launch with a stellar campaign: It’s time to join the socially responsible companies out there that are leading the way. If you’ve followed our steps and best practices your CSR strategy should give your business a competitive advantage against other brands and you can start enjoying social or environmental benefits, and eventually will see a result in your financial performance.

Wrapping it all up 

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.

Ultimate purpose driven CSR guide 1024x538

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) FAQs

What is CSR Strategy?

A CSR strategy covers every aspect of your corporate social responsibility initiatives. Your strategy will include everything from the initiatives’ supply chain to the company’s corporate governance on corporate responsibility. The strategy is the key document to tie CSR to larger business strategies and ensure your corporate philanthropy remains on track.

Who creates the CSR strategy?

A CSR Strategy is usually created by the CSR department, Human Resources, or Office Managers. These teams will often work with CSR service providers, like Alaya, to align on strategic planning, CSR activities, sustainability initiatives, and key performance indicators. supply