An organisation's success is based on a number of factors. Do you have a consistent brand? Does your supply chain function efficiently enough to meet demand? Are your employees engaged?
All of these are important aspects of business, but as society shifts and emphasis is put on what goes on behind the scenes, a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) may be pushed into the limelight – whether you like it or not.
What is CSR?
At its core, CSR simply refers to an organisation doing business in such a way that benefits society as a whole. While there are various ways a business can approach its CSR, some of the most common, broad approaches include environmental efforts, ethical labour practices, volunteering and philanthropy:
- Environment: Regardless of an organisation's size, looking after its carbon footprint and taking steps to reduce it as much as possible is considered both good for the company as well as society at large.
- Ethics: Of particular importance to companies operating overseas, treating all employees fairly and ethically is a definite contribution to good CSR.
- Volunteer work: Doing good without expecting anything in return, such as volunteering time to a particular cause, can help raise awareness for a specific issue as well as boost employee morale.
- Philanthropy: Donating to charities and local community programs is also considered CSR best practice.
Leading by example
Three of the most prominent organisations that have a reputation for their CSR efforts are Google, Target and Xerox.
Google invests into reducing its carbon footprint with their 'Google Green' program.
Google, known for its innovative approaches to employee engagement among other things, also invests into reducing its carbon footprint with their 'Google Green' program. By utilising resources more efficiently and supporting renewable power, the tech giant has halved electricity requirements for its data centres; savings Google reinvests in other areas.
Target, while seen by many as yet another mega-corporation, has been committed to putting parts of its assets toward local and environmental community support. This means their efforts have amounted to five per cent of all profits going to local communities.
Xerox on the other hand has a dedicated community involvement program, where employees participate in locally-focused causes.
Albeit different, all three organisations go beyond their day-to-day business activities and are active in giving back to society.
The new blueprint for good CSR
At the base of good social responsibility, an organisation needs to have a business-based social purpose. This means CSR programs should reflect the company and its voice, reinforcing the overall purpose and leveraging core competencies rather than branching out into a completely different direction.
Next, the depth and quality of the information leadership provides stakeholders with will steer the direction as well as the potential for success for any program. Again, aligning the social efforts with what the organisation does on a daily basis is important. If you are in the technology space, for example, you would be well off helping deprived communities gain access to a relevant technology.
As more organisations are becoming active in the space of social responsibility, it's also increasingly difficult to distinguish one business from another. Decreasing the ubiquity around what is becoming valuable to business at large is therefore also important.
To truly establish a reputation for good CSR though, companies need to build relationships with experts that can help develop a holistic, credible program and guide an organisation's leadership through the entire process. It's easy to declare social responsibility, but success requires the community and public to believe and support the claim.
Lastly, it might be tempting to have a hand in a whole variety of programs. However, it is much more beneficial to focus all efforts on a single cause, or at least a small number of issues. Less is more in this case as more resources can be directed to a single initiative.
By keeping these factors in mind, communication specialists can build a CSR program smartly, not just for the sake of it.