Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a type of business self-regulation with the aim of being socially accountable. There is no one “right” way companies can practice CSR; many corporate CSR initiatives strive to positively contribute to the public, the economy, or the environment. In today’s socially conscious environment, employees and customers place a premium on working for and spending their money with businesses that prioritize CSR.
Katie Schmidt, the founder and lead designer of Passion Lilie, said that companies that implement CSR stand to benefit in multiple ways.
“What the public thinks of your company is critical to its success,” Schmidt told Business News Daily. “By building a positive image that you believe in, you can make a name for your company as being socially conscious.”
As the use of corporate responsibility expands, it is becoming increasingly important to have a socially conscious image. Consumers, employees, and stakeholders prioritize CSR when choosing a brand or company, and they are holding corporations accountable for effecting social change with their business beliefs, practices, and profits.
“A robust CSR program is an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their good corporate citizenship … and protect the company from outsized risk by looking at the whole social and environmental sphere that surrounds the company,” said Jen Boynton, CEO of B Targeted Marketing Co.
To illustrate how critical social responsibility has become, previous research by Cone Communications found that more than 60% of Americans hope businesses will drive social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation. Nearly 90% of the consumers surveyed said they would purchase a product because a company supported an issue they care about. More importantly, nearly 75% said they would refuse to buy from a company if they learned the company supported an issue contrary to their own beliefs.
Consumers aren’t the only ones drawn to businesses that give back. Susan Cooney, head of global diversity, equity, and inclusion at Symantec, said that a company’s sustainability strategy is a big factor in where today’s top talent chooses to work.
“The next generation of employees is seeking out employers that are focused on the triple bottom line: people, planet, and revenue,” said Cooney. “Coming out of the recession, corporate revenue has been getting stronger. Companies are encouraged to put that increased profit into programs that give back.”
Schmidt also stated that sustainable development can help a business financially. For example, using less packaging and less energy can reduce production costs.
4 types of corporate responsibility your business can practice
Recognizing how important socially responsible efforts are to their customers, employees, and stakeholders, many companies focus on a few broad CSR categories, including:
Environmental efforts: One primary focus of CSR is the environment. Businesses, regardless of size, have large carbon footprints. Any steps a company can take to reduce its footprint is considered good for both the company and society.
Philanthropy: Businesses can practice social responsibility by donating money, products, or services to social causes and nonprofits. Larger companies tend to have plentiful resources that can benefit charities and local community programs; however, as a small business, your efforts can make a big difference. If there is a specific charity or program you have in mind, reach out to the organization and ask them about their specific needs and whether a donation of money, time, or perhaps your company’s products would best help them.
Ethical labor practices: By treating employees fairly and ethically, companies can demonstrate CSR. This is especially true of businesses that operate in international locations with labor laws that differ from those in the United States.
Volunteering: Participating in local causes or volunteering your time (and your staff’s time) in community events says a lot about a company’s sincerity. By doing good deeds without expecting anything in return, companies can express their concern (and support) for specific issues and social causes.
Building a socially responsible business
While startups and small companies don’t have the deep financial pockets that enterprises have, their efforts can have a significant impact, especially in their local communities.
“Even 5%, though it might not sound like a lot, can add up to make a difference,” said Schmidt. “When thinking of ways to donate and give back, start local, and then move from there.”
When identifying and launching a CSR initiative, involve your employees in the decision-making process. Create an internal team to spearhead the efforts and identify organizations or causes that may be somewhat related to the business or that employees feel strongly about. Contributing to something your employees are passionate about can increase engagement and success. Involving your employees in the decision-making process can also bring clarity and assurance to your team.
“If decisions [about CSR] are made behind closed doors, people will wonder if there are strings attached and if the donations are really going where they say,” Cooney said. “Engage your employees [and consumers] in giving back. Let them feel like they have a voice.”
Regardless of which strategies you use for sustainable development, Boynton said it is important to be vocal. Let your consumers know what you are doing to be socially conscious.
“Consumers deserve to share in the good feelings associated with doing the right thing, and many surveys have found that consumers are inclined to purchase a sustainable product over a conventional alternative,” she said. “Announcing these benefits is a win-win from both a commercial and sustainability perspective.”
What to avoid when creating a socially responsible business model
Becoming a socially responsible business can be simple, though there are a few caveats.
First, businesses should avoid participating in charitable efforts that are not related to their core business focus or that violate a company’s ethical standards in any way. Instead of blindly sending money to a completely unrelated organization, find a nonprofit that your company believes in or a project in your community.
Second, don’t use CSR opportunities solely for marketing purposes. Schmidt said running a corporate responsibility campaign as a quick marketing scheme can backfire if your business doesn’t follow through. Instead of employing a one-time act, you can adopt socially responsible business practices over time. Schmidt said employees and consumers react positively to companies that embrace long-term social responsibility.
Last, if you are considering sustainable activities that aren’t legally required yet, don’t wait. By adopting socially responsible norms early on, you set the bar for your industry and refine your process.
Undertaking CSR initiatives is a win for everyone involved. The impact of your actions will not only appeal to socially conscious consumers and employees but can also make a real difference in the world.
Examples of CSR companies
If you’re looking for CSR inspiration for your business, here are six companies practicing corporate social responsibility on a large scale.
Lego: The toy company has invested millions of dollars into addressing climate change and reducing waste. Lego’s environmentally conscious efforts include reduced packaging, using sustainable materials, and investing in alternative energy.
TOMS: TOMS donates one-third of its net profits to various charities that support physical and mental health as well as educational opportunities. As of April 1, 2020, the brand is directing all charitable donations to the TOMS COVID-19 Global Giving Fund.
Johnson & Johnson: The brand focuses on reducing its environmental impact by investing in various alternative energy sources. Globally, Johnson & Johnson also works to provide clean, safe water to communities.
Starbucks: The global coffee chain has implemented a socially responsible hiring process to diversify their workforce. Their efforts are focused on hiring more veterans, young people looking to start their careers, and refugees.
Google: Google has demonstrated its commitment to the environment by investing in renewable energy sources and sustainable offices. The company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, is also known to stand up against social issues such as discrimination.
Pfizer: The pharmaceutical company’s focus on “corporate citizenship” is reflected in its healthcare initiatives. Some of the company’s initiatives include spreading awareness about non-infectious diseases and providing accessible health services to women and children in need.
No matter the size of your company, implementing socially responsible practices can not only benefit your business, but it can make a positive impact on the world.
Additional reporting and writing by Nicole Fallon and Sammi Caramela. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
Most everyone is undoubtedly familiar with the term “having a seat at the table.”
Often reserved for those who are considered to have both the influence and power to make decisions and effect change, the table has become a symbol of power, negotiation, and credibility through which one can forward their career, generate a sale, or plot a course for enterprise success. In other words, when one is provided with a seat at the table, it represents an opportunity to be heard and to make a difference. But there is much more behind coming to the table than simply taking a seat.
In my upcoming eNewsletter, I will be providing practical tips in terms of strategizing your “table-time” outcome, as well as being mindful of where to sit and why. Call it boardroom etiquette, presentation technique, or strategic positioning, I am sure that you will find the tips useful. However, and in putting together the newsletter, I came across something that was very interesting – especially in terms of the information you share from your seat at the table.
“The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to.” – Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon and Nicholas Toman in Harvard Business Review (July 2012) In his review of the HBR article, Marc Bergen wrote “sales reps would take the time to discover a customer’s needs and sell them the solutions to those needs,” and that this approach “worked for a long time.”
Bergen then goes on to say that today, things are much different, as “almost everything that a customer needs to know about solving her perceived problem is just a click away.” Think about this last point for a moment. You are in a meeting in the boardroom. You are “at the table.” Whether you are selling a product or service or championing a new strategy internally, unlike in the past, the people whom you are addressing are likely to be as knowledgeable about the subject matter as you are. This means that merely sharing information is not enough. You have to add value to it.
1. Know what they don’t know
You have to tell them more than the words they have already read through the click of a mouse. Beyond content, I am talking context. What is it that you, and only you, can add to what is already out there and known. This is the first rule of being effective at the table . . . assume everyone already knows what you know, and then find a way to not only deliver new insights but new perspectives on existing knowledge. This is adding value. What are other ways to add value from your seat at the table?
2. Become A Conversation Encourager
Besides the knowledge that you bring to the table, listen, and observe what others are saying and doing, and don’t be afraid to challenge ideas or have your ideas challenged. In other words, facilitate a dialogue that encourages the free flow of information. The more information that is shared, the better positioned you will be to make a meaningful contribution. This of course does not mean that you take over the meeting. What it means is that you become an active participant who, instead of monopolizing the discussion with your own monologue, you also encourage others to have a voice. If there is a lull in the discussion, ask a question, or make a leading statement. The key is to avoid the bobblehead syndrome where everyone in silent acquiescence nods in seeming agreement with everything that is being said. It is in scenarios such as these that you will likely find the origins of the lament “when everything is said and done, there is more said than done.” Or to put it another way, don’t get trapped by a route of least resistance assumption in which you interpret minimal dialogue to mean acceptance or buy-in.
3. Face Time Is At A Premium – Seek Clear Cut Feedback
Don’t assume anything. This is a good rule of thumb in all situations both in and out of the boardroom. However, and unlike everyday exchanges and interactions, when you have a seat at the table, there is the expectation of achieving a tangible outcome, as well as understanding upon what said the outcome is based. If for example, a definitive course of action hasn’t been established, determine what additional information is needed, and what will happen after said information has been provided. If the answer to your idea is no, it is better to know about it then, than leave thinking that it might still be on the table.
Remember, face time – especially in this world of virtual communication – is at a premium, so make it count by seeking clear cut feedback.
Come prepared with thought-provoking questions Be seen as an information broker – share statistics, competitor strategies or research not yet publicized Speak up early in the meeting to make yourself present Ditch your i-phone, android, or i-pad. Own your space at the table Once again, in my upcoming eNewsletter, I will provide you with tips regarding board room protocol and techniques for best presenting your ideas i.e. find an opportunity to write something on the smartboard or flip chart and remain standing for as long as you can.
Like proper dress or table manners at a business lunch, these are important because you want people to see and hear you beyond surface distractions, and in the best light. The purpose of today’s post is to make sure that when they are watching and listening to you from your seat at the table, you have something meaningful to say.
Social responsibility is now a key part of any successful entrepreneurial venture.
Being socially conscious is not only a responsibility all entrepreneurs have, but it also helps build a lasting relationship with your community. Moreover, consumers don’t only expect companies to provide great products and services anymore, but also to help the community in which they operate.
Besides the moral factor, socially conscious companies often create positive work environments and have dynamic ideologies that attract top talent. The best prospects are likely to choose a company that has an active role in their community and that dedicates some of its resources to helping others.
Although the benefits of having a socially conscious business are clear, it’s hard to know where to start, especially for a startup. I’ve put together an article to help you on your quest to establishing social consciousness and making it a part of your brand’s identity.
1. Establish a social mission.
The best and most forward way to make your business socially conscious is to create a social mission. All companies have mission and vision statements, but you should incorporate a third one that emphasizes how your company will actively seek to help the community.
Don’t fall into the trap of creating a vague social mission; it’ll be hard to explain to your team, and chances are you won’t be able to build a strategy around it. Instead, look at the resources you can allocate to helping the community right now and write a realistic mission that focuses on promoting teamwork and transparency. Keep the mission simple, such as “Do Good Stuff.”
2. Establish realistic goals.
After you have set up your mission, you should start thinking about what you are going to do and exactly how your company will help. Create a list of goals that you want to achieve in the next three to six months. Remember to set up realistic objectives that can be accomplished without causing major disruptions to your day-to-day operations.
Include both short-term and long-term goals that can be measured. These goals should:
Address an immediate issue within your community
Provide solutions with the resources you already have
Educate or create awareness of an issue in your area
3. Educate your employees.
You will need the help of your entire team if you want to truly create a socially responsible business. Therefore, your employees need to be involved and informed every step of the way. They need to understand the issues your company is addressing, why you’re doing it, and exactly how. You can answer their questions by carrying out meetings and sending out informative memos. This will help them answer any customer inquiries and motivate them to join the cause.
4. Organize an in-house social responsibility team.
Once you have educated your employees, you can set up an in-house social responsibility team. These employees can dedicate some of their time to crowdsourcing ideas to figure out the best way to have a more positive impact in the community. Your in-house social responsibility team should also:
Be passionate about helping others
Create and carry out an actionable list of tasks
Work with the resources you allocated
Launch internal and public awareness campaigns
Report to you about the performance of the social responsibility strategy
5. Direct contributions.
You can show social responsibility through philanthropy. Donating money or resources to local charities can make a huge difference to their daily operations, having a direct impact on the community in which your business apart. Most startups and small companies are limited as to how much money they can donate. You can always go the extra mile and set up a donation box or organize a small fundraising event to show support.
6. Encourage volunteering.
Volunteering makes a world of difference, so reward your employees who decide to enroll and volunteer in social programs. Moreover, you should scope out charitable events that need daytime volunteers and offer your team’s assistance. Volunteering as a team will help your employees build a strong bond while contributing to a good cause. Besides having a volunteering day, you can also reward those who want to volunteer during work hours. You can allow them to take paid time off to volunteer on specific dates, granted they finish all their tasks beforehand.
7. Ethical labor practices.
When you think about social responsibility, the first things to come to mind are donations and volunteering. However, social consciousness starts from within. Make sure you follow ethical labor practices, for instance:
Treat your employees with respect and dignity
Value their work
Enable growth opportunities within your company
Provide fair compensation for their services
Create a safe and healthy work environment
8. Think about sustainability.
Even if they don’t seem like an immediate concern in your particular community, environmental issues are already an alarming reality for most. Capitalist economies have spearheaded the charge of unsustainable practices, so it’s every entrepreneur’s responsibility to take action and start reducing their environmental impact.
Make sure you focus on sustainability and keep it in mind throughout your company’s entire operations. This includes:
Working a paperless environment, whenever possible
Participating in recycling programs
Implementing eco-friendly lighting and plumbing
Creating energy-efficient policies
Encouraging carpooling, a great place for listening to inspirational audio books.
Discouraging any unsustainable practices and industry standards
9. Collaborate with compatible organizations.
Collaborating with other companies and organizations that have a similar mentality can help you have a bigger impact than you would on your own. Joining other local, and sometimes national companies for a cause can help you make a super-charged donation or organize an amazing fundraiser. Partnering up with another organization can help you get more funding and it can help you find creative ways to allocate other resources into charitable work.
10. Make your effort last.
It’s important to understand that social consciousness is not a marketing stunt or a one-time attempt. You need to take social responsibility seriously and treat it for what it is: an ongoing effort to help a good cause in your community. Always try to contribute on a regular basis, host an annual event, and make scheduled contributions to a good cause. Organize yourself properly and set realistic expectations to make sure you can continuously help your community.
Social responsibility is now a key part of any successful entrepreneurial venture. Remember to show gratitude towards your community and your employees to cultivate good relationships. In doing so, you will create a successful business with a high moral standing that is a valued member of society.