It is pretty well known that for a business to succeed in 2020, it needs to have even a basic commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR), it is less well understood that investing in community involvement is a great way to make a big impact quickly.
A Google search for the term, CSR, will result in hundreds of articles relaying the benefits to companies of incorporating a social good strategy into their business model, and there are countless statistics to show that consumers care more about corporate social responsibility than ever before.
CSR is not just for the big names, however, and an effective social good strategy can have benefits for any company, regardless of size. Check out our article on easy ways for small businesses to incorporate social good into their business plans.
A win-win situation
Writing for Forbes, James Epstein-Reeves defines CSR as ‘a way for companies to benefit themselves while also benefiting society’. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?
While there are cynics who view the idea of social good as no more than an insincere marketing strategy, it is evident that there is an expectation, and a demand for, committed social responsibility within businesses, especially amongst younger customers.
It is regularly stated that millennials care more about corporate social responsibility than other demographics, but it is also true that they are more likely to research a company to find out if their efforts are authentic .
So, it is important to establish a CSR strategy within your company, but it is even more important that the company follows through on promises with action to show that its efforts are genuine.
Breaking down barriers
One of the key pillars of corporate social responsibility, that can sometimes be overlooked, is an involvement in the local community. This could be anything from sponsoring a local event, supporting a local charity or volunteering goods or services towards schools or community projects.
For small businesses, this is an opportunity to get to know their customers better and to raise their profile. Supporting local events will likely provide exposure for the company who will be introduced to a wider audience. For larger companies it is an opportunity to show a more “human” side to the business and break down barriers that can be created by the impression of a large anonymous corporation.
Opportunities for collaboration
Getting involved in the community is not only beneficial from a CSR standpoint; a shared commitment to serving the community can even open the doors for new partnerships. It provides a chance to network with fellow business owners and members of the local council.
Fostering positive relationships with other members of the community is a great way of supporting the local economy and creating opportunities for collaboration. Talk Business points out that ‘teaming up with other businesses can help you both tackle larger projects which will … help you develop a larger clientele list and reach out to a larger audience’.
Creating a network of mutual support between local businesses allows for wider promotion, helps strengthen customer loyalty, and can only benefit the local economy. The impact of a close-knit community of local businesses and customers should not be underestimated.
Long-term partnerships: Anglian Water and Local Government
Although actions such as sponsoring an event are a wonderful way to provide immediate support, the benefits of this are very short-lived. A strategic and sustained commitment to local improvement is far more effective in building communities and benefiting stakeholders.
Anglian Water is a great example of a company who have done just this. In 2013 the company became a driving force in the ‘Wisbech 2020 Vision’ an Action Plan introduced by political leaders of Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council who were concerned with the lack of infrastructure and opportunity in the town of Wisbech.
Anglian Water established a rural Business Connector who, in the first instance, was required to listen to the needs of the community and deliver some quick solutions.
Initially they set up a weekly job cafe to tackle the problem of employability skills and to work with a local charity to refurbish a disused school and transform it into a ‘thriving and profitable’ community centre.
A longer-term goal was to improve transport infrastructure connecting Wisbech to Peterborough and Cambridge and to create a proposal for a ‘climate resilient’ Garden Town which would deliver up to 12,00 homes.
By 2019, they made some great progress towards their ultimate goals, a rail link in the final stages of Network Rail Assessment is to go ahead and the Garden Town proposal gained £6.5m in support.
Community involvement: Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer is another major UK business which has long been committed to community involvement with their dedication to hiring single parents and people with disabilities or other disadvantages from local areas around its stores.
Sustainability manager, Jo Daniels, claims that the employees hired through these programs are ‘very passionate and committed people’. Focusing on engaging with members of the local community in their recruitment strategy has helped Marks and Spencer to build a team of loyal and dedicated employees.
Getting to know your customers
There are myriad reasons to become more involved in community projects and no company is too big or too small to do so.
It is an ideal way to get to know the needs and wants of your customers, create alliances with other businesses, and have a key part in the transformation and revitalisation of the local economy.
Any business looking to revamp their social good strategy should start by including community benefits in their tendering process and consider both methods of short-term, immediate support and deeper, longer-term projects.
If you want to know more about how to create an effective social good strategy to engage your local community, and how employer supported volunteering might be a great tool to achieve this – please get in touch!
Written by Betty Henderson