Corporate social responsibility (CSR): how to do it right

By Robert Half on 11 August 2016

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) was once the domain of pioneering companies looking to set themselves apart.

But in today’s rapidly changing business world, it has become more than just a buzzword. Both consumers and employees have become more discerning about what they buy and where they work.

What is corporate social responsibility?

When a business talks about their corporate social responsibility program, they often mean they have policies and activities in place that have a positive impact on society and the environment. They contribute to sustainable development while being compliant with the law, ethical standards, and national or international values or traditions.

A robust CSR self-regulated program often demonstrates a business’s commitment to its people and the environment, making it more desirable to stakeholders, including both customers and employees. As corporate social responsibility affects the reputation of a company, it’s usually something that sits with the PR team or HR manager within a business.

Here are some tips on how to ensure your CSR program is a success.

1. Doing more with less

A good corporate social responsibility program should be focused on doing a few things well. Decide what causes your company wants to help and focus on those, instead of spreading yourself thin over several different areas. Ensure you do your research and align your company with causes that match your brand. For example, Google came up with Google Green which is a corporate initiative to encourage everyone in the business to use resources efficiently and supports renewable power.

2. Be honest

Be upfront about why you’re supporting certain causes so the community can understand why you care. For example, has someone in your company been affected by the issue you’re championing? People react positively when they hear personal stories, which will help your company connect with the public on a deeper level.

Also, ensure you create long-lasting relationships with communities and the causes you’re supporting. For example, engage with local youth centres and set up a ‘big brother, big sister’ program where staff in your organisation can help give guidance to youth in need. By doing so, you will successfully engage the entire organisation with your CSR program.

3. Crowdsource

Use surveys to carry out market research on what your customers want through crowdsourcing. This will help them feel empowered that their opinion is valued regarding issues that directly impact them, which will enhance your corporate reputation. Customers may even highlight social or environmental issues that your company didn’t know about.

Also conduct internal surveys for staff – if they are given input into what causes they’re involved in, they will be more invested in your company’s CSR program, and more motivated. They may even create their own forms of publicity around what they’re doing in the program.

4. Walk the talk

Top management must believe in the CSR program and lead it, which means being involved in the activities that take place. If employees see that top management is invested in it, they will be more inclined to invest their own time. You set the example for your employees. Having management and employees who believe in the program will be key to its success.

5. Look to peers

Look at what your peers (and competitors) are doing, and ask yourself if you believe in their program. Ensure you analyse what they’re doing right and wrong, and adapt your program accordingly. If you believe in another company’s CSR program, chances are others in the community do too, which means they’re doing something you could learn from.

6. Keep track

Any good CSR program should be measurable. Although it can be difficult to accurately measure what impact you have on a social level, you can track how many hours have been spent volunteering or how much money has been donated to charity. Keep track of this information to help quantify how successful your program has been and to provide a benchmark for the future.

Implementing a successful CSR program might seem daunting, but ensuring you follow a few simple steps along the way will help elevate your company’s brand, and also bring about meaningful change.

This article originally appeared as Corporate social responsibility: how to do it right on the Robert Half Australia blog.

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