Social Good Blog Post

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

mug of coffee on table

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business buzzword that has been banded about a lot over the last few years. It refers to the practice of incorporating social activities that have a positive impact on the environment and community into your business goals.

It has become a very widely accepted view that businesses today should care about more than just their own profit. In fact, just last year at the Business Roundtable, 181 top US CEO’s signed an open letter redefining the purpose of business as a commitment to all stakeholders.

In the letter they commit to: deliver value to their customers, invest in their employees, deal ethically with suppliers, support communities and generate long-term value for shareholders.

This is a complete turnaround from the previously accepted view that ‘the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’.

Why should you care?

On a purely economic level – CSR is good for business. Studies by the Harvard Business Review have shown that ‘companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5-7% per year’.

But beyond that, they also found that ‘if the company has a strong corporate purpose… its employees will feel greater meaning and impact in their jobs’.

Taking CSR seriously can mean increased customer loyalty, better employee retention, and improved profits.

How to do it right?

Incorporating a CSR strategy is a good idea for any business, but it shouldn’t just be a box-ticking exercise.

Time and time again we see corporations missing the mark with hollow social campaigns and customers can see straight through it.

In order to create an effective CSR strategy there must be buy-in at every level of management. The employees, managers, and CEOs must be equally committed to the company’s efforts for good, or the campaign will fall flat.

Your CSR efforts must align with your company’s values and actions. Don’t shout about your commitment to environmental causes if you haven’t first examined and addressed your own environmental impact.

It must also be a targeted and strategic process, or your efforts will come to no more than just another drop in the ocean of good intention. You can’t solve all the world’s problems; it is a good idea to start at home and work with your employees to identify the main issues in your local community and consider how you are best placed to help.

As sustainable business practices become the norm, CSR will cease to be a separate issue and ever more a part of business-as-usual.

What does CSR look like in 2020?

SDGs

Community impact platform, Everfi, predicts that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will form a big part of CSR planning and reporting in 2020. Published in 2015, the goals are broad and ambitious and include aims such as ending poverty, ensuring quality education for all and ensuring global access to clean water by the year 2030.

While these goals are not new, there has been an increased focus on them after the September 2019 SDG summit. The goals are actually a great framework on which businesses can map and measure their social impact. The Global Reporting Initiative and UN Global Compact published a guide to incorporating the SDGs into corporate reporting which you can access here.

Employer Supported Volunteering

Another prediction from Everfi is that company organised volunteer programs will become a big part of CSR strategies in 2020. They claim that ‘Silicon Valley companies are leading the way with nearly half (46%) holding 10 or more volunteer events each year’. And we all know that wherever Silicon Valley goes, the rest of the world soon follows.

Employer supported volunteering is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated during the current pandemic while most staff are either working from home or furloughed. Giving back to communities and lending skills and expertise to areas of need will help your team stay connected and allow your company to make a positive impact on society in these trying times.

The Death of CSR (it’s a good thing!)

Gary Carr, writing for CSR Matters, makes the case that CSR as we understand it now will die a death in the next decade. He gives the example of the term ‘e-business’ which was huge in the 90s as companies were encouraged to create a digital presence and incorporate the internet into the way they did business. However, as technology evolved, so did the way companies work. Very quickly, the term ‘e-business’ simply became ‘business’.

And this is exactly what Carr claims will happen to the term CSR. As sustainable business practices become the norm, CSR will cease to be a separate issue and ever more a part of business-as-usual. In Carr’s own words: ‘CSR is already dying… dying as a discipline, but thriving in our companies’.

Your organisation

So, with all that in mind, how will your organisation approach CSR this year?

Check out these articles for more info on the benefits and possibilities of CSR and get in touch if you want to learn more about employer supported volunteering!