The importance of corporate social responsibility
Everybody wants to make a positive impact in the world. And for businesses, it’s not only the right thing to do, socially responsible companies have a better reputation, attract and retain top talent, and have better overall business results.
By putting in place a well thought out corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy you can make sure that your company's impact, and reputation, is a positive one.
What is corporate social responsibility?
CSR is the strategy that a business takes to recognise and contribute to the well-being of the society and communities that it affects and depends on.
Sound fancy and complicated? A company’s CSR can include things like sustainability initiatives, diversity and inclusion programmes, ethical work practices or charity volunteering days, it really doesn't need to be super complex.
To keep it straight forward: a company’s CSR should drive that company to improve the environment, economy, and community through social measures and environmental schemes in a socially responsible way - in whatever form that suits that company.
Why is Corporate Social Responsibility important?
When you contribute to the issues that matter to your teams, shareholders and customers you’ll show them that you share their values.
Your CSR approach shows that you're forward-thinking and ethical, great for brand reputation, building employee engagement and encouraging investment, which all contribute to better business results. So, it’s not just good for people, communities and the environment, it’s good for business too.
How to introduce a CSR strategy
As we’ve mentioned, there’s no one size fits all approach to CSR. Each business will have a different workforce, business aims, supply chain, products, services and customers. So it makes sense that you’ll need to consider the make-up of your own organisation and create a CSR strategy to fit. We have a few questions to get you started:
A good starting point is to consider the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With a key focus on CSR, the 17 goals are based on principles of environment, human rights, labour and anti-corruption. Think about how these might be relevant to your business goals, for example:
- What are your environmental impacts and how could you become a carbon neutral business?
- What are your labour conditions and how could you do more to make sure your subcontractors follow ethical labour practices too?
- Are you a gender-equal employer or could you do more to have better representation at senior levels?
These might all be things you want to consider that link to your CSR approach. Make sure you ask your employees or customers what they care about too. Surveys are a great way to gather data and ideas about where you can focus your efforts.
Once you know what areas you want to tackle in your CSR strategy, the most important part of making it a success is to really commit to it. This means making it part of all you do. Get buy-in from senior leadership, adapt HR policies, communicate new initiatives, and make sure to keep measuring success and changing your strategy depending on results.
What are the types of Corporate Social Responsibility?
1. Ethical responsibility to your staff
Treating employees ethically and fairly is essential to the well-being of your workforce. It's also important to your suppliers and subcontractors, your customers, shareholders and potential investors.
Make sure that you and any external partners you work with stick to strict labour laws and have a strong commitment to work practices that prevent child and forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking.
Of course, treating your staff fairly goes beyond legal requirements. You could also commit to training and development, paying a living wage, or providing a safe and comfortable workplace for all.
2. Environmentally friendly benefits for staff
With climate change and environmental issues a growing concern, staff, customers and investors alike really value companies that are committed to sustainability and greener work practices. Businesses tend to have big carbon footprints so anything you can do to reduce that is likely to land well.
Introducing green employee benefits is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and as a plus, it also helps keeping your staff engaged and happy. Cleaner commute initiatives like an EV salary sacrifice scheme or an electric vehicle business lease can save over 1.5 tonnes of carbon per employee every year when they switch to electric.
3. Philanthropy and local causes
As a business, you can choose to support charities, nonprofits and social causes by donating your products, services and money where they would make a difference. Even if you’re a small business, every donation and little bit of help can make a big difference.
Think about charities or local causes that might link to your company goals and values. Could you support sustainability efforts by donating to a wildlife trust, or encouraging staff to volunteer with a tree planting charity they’ve shown an interest in? Or support a local cause by donating building materials to a nearby homeless charity? Contact your preferred organisations and ask what donations, products or resources they might need that could help. Anything counts as long as we do something.
4. Volunteering for causes your staff care about
When your team feel like they’re making a difference they feel more engaged and proud to be part of your company. Encouraging volunteering days and giving local causes and charities your staff’s time makes your employees feel good and helps support the local community..
Listening to the social values of your employees, customers, shareholders and investors is key to your success, so don’t be afraid to use it. Only by being a socially responsible company and engaging on issues that people care about can you hope to keep your employees happy and make a positive impact on the world. So, if you want to be known as a more socially responsible and thriving business, then it's time to invest in a great CSR strategy.