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.
What’s your opinion of your Human Resources department? Paper pusher? Only there when you need help with benefits and birthdays? Wait… Does our company have a Human Resources department? Let’s face it… it’s not always the team that everyone wants to join—or even worse—the team you want to partner with to hire your team. Human Resources has an image problem. But here at the Jack Welch Management Institute, we help HR leaders navigate past this negative perception and position themselves with not only a seat at the table but as an independent confidant to the CEO.
Without a doubt, the head of HR should be the second most important person in any organization. From the point of view of the CEO, the director of HR should be at least equal to the CFO —Jack Welch
But now as an HR professional can you do that? How do you earn a seat at the table? How can you earn the respect of the C-suite? We recently hosted a webinar in partnership with SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) to discuss just that. Mary Carr, JWMI’s Dean of Curriculum and Content shared the five keys steps HR professionals can take to evolve their HR role to a position of primacy within any organization.
5 Steps to Earning a Seat at the Table
BE SEEN AS THE TALENT MANAGEMENT EXPERT! Benefits, payroll, and other administrative tasks are essential. But there is no more important goal than hiring the right person for the job. And not just any person—you want to hire the best and brightest! HR professionals need to redefine themselves as talent management experts. You need to be the go-to partner that will help other departments build and develop their teams. Make talent your number one priority. You need to be the go-to resource that has a plan, understands where talent gaps are, speaks to other operators about their needs within the business, understands the hiring market, and has the foresight to look ahead at what’s coming and plan for that. Lastly, ensure you have the right measures in place to assess and reward talent.
At JWMI, we believe in differentiation. Reward the stars (the top 20%) both financially and with additional responsibility, work to coach and grow the middle 70%, and speak candidly with the bottom 10% to understand if the position is a good fit for them. Retaining top talent and developing future leaders is key to any organization’s success. Putting a process in place like differentiation ensures that everyone from the CEO to the manager to the employee understands where they stand within the larger organization.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch
SHARPEN YOUR BUSINESS ACUMEN AND ALIGN YOUR ACTIONS WITH THE COMPANY’S STRATEGY. Often HR professionals are not seen as “part” of the business nor included within strategy sessions. To change this perception, you need to demonstrate your business acumen. Show that you understand how the company makes money, how each area of the business contributes to organizational success, and the competitive advantage that building an organization filled with A-level players brings. Speak the language of the business, not HR rhetoric. Share your point of view candidly in meetings; don’t just sit there, afraid to speak up.
TURN YOUR DEPARTMENT FROM A COST CENTER INTO A PROFIT CENTER. HR professionals need to be able to “speak with numbers.” Deliver a clear and definable ROI for the HR department using quantifiable metrics to demonstrate efficacy. How engaged is the work-force? How has the talent you’ve hired performed and driven value for the company? If your company is currently using metrics to track HR activities and programs- great! If you aren’t tracking and measuring, this should be an immediate action item. If you aren’t comfortable with numbers, take a course. Better yet, cross-train in an operational department to gain insight. And become friendly with your finance peers who will be a valuable resource. Finally, understand the real costs of turnover when factoring in expenses for hiring, onboarding, and training. Know how you measure your top talent and what the pay norms are for that skillset caliber.
COMMUNICATE CLEARLY AND CONCISELY. It’s not easy to get the ear of the CEO or other C-suite executives, a lack of executive presence can undermine even the most capable HR professional. The critical component of an effective executive presence is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced business world. At JWMI, our MBA students take an Executive Presence course which teaches the communication tactics often reserved for the C-suite. We stress how to write an effective memo, how to put together a compelling PowerPoint, and most importantly how to present yourself via WebEx or an in-person meeting. Outside of getting your MBA, you should ask for communication feedback from those around you, practice presentations in the mirror, and find a role model who you can emulate behavior from within your organization and who can help you grow.
BUILD TRUST, BECOME A VALUED ADVISOR. HR, perhaps more than any other business function, can help develop a culture of truth, transparency, and candor in the organization. To start, survey employees, listen to their issues, and work to fix those problems. Bring energy and optimism to the job every day and deliver bad news quickly so people can respond to it and take action. Candor doesn’t develop naturally; it takes continued practice. Everyone can improve, so being both open to receiving feedback as well as giving it, will slowly help build the foundation for trust. It may take years, but once the workforce sees HR as a trusted partner in their endeavors as well as a valued advisor to senior executives you know you are on the right track., HR needs to balance being both a parent and pastor. Our MBA with Human Resources concentration curriculum helps to do just that.
Start implementing these five steps into your organization and you will be on your way to gaining a seat at the table.
About the Jack Welch Management Institute
Our new MBA concentration in Human Resources, built on Jack Welch’s time-test business principles, aims to position the CHRO (Chief Human Resource Officer) as a top position in the company, second behind the CEO. Because HR professionals should earn a seat at the table—as they help to set their company up for success.