Aligning Corporate Social Responsibility goals with business goals in 2021

How to align your Corporate Social Responsibility goals with wider business goals in 2021

20 January 2021

Henry David Thoreau once said, ‘What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.’

We think this as true for organisations as it is for individuals.

Last year was a tough one for business but, for the most part, the companies who successfully navigated the trials of 2020 are those which dedicated themselves to supporting their people and their communities.

Companies with a commitment to corporate social responsibility goals are best placed to support their communities in a time of crisis, are generally more able to adapt and pivot their priorities, and as such, are more likely to hold the loyalty of their employees and customers.

But a public commitment to corporate social responsibility is not enough. It must be backed by clear goals, defined actions, and accountability at every stage.

So, in 2021, why not set some people-focused, high-impact corporate social responsibility goals and find out just what kind of bold, brave, and beloved company you could become?

‘What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.' Henry David Thoreau


Setting goals for corporate social responsibility

As any project manager (or motivational speaker) would tell you, the first step to success  with any activity is setting goals. You need to know where you’re going if you’re to have any chance of getting there.

Unfortunately for anyone getting involved with measuring, reporting, and setting corporate social responsibility goals for the first time, there is no single accepted framework for CSR. In fact, there are as mainly articles outlining ‘the three pillars of CSR’ as there are articles laying out ‘the five principles’ or the ‘four dimensions’ of corporate social responsibility.

Fortunately, however, while all these pillars, principles, and dimensions vary in detail, they do all tend to encompass three main areas of focus.

  • People

  • Planet

  • Profits

A well-rounded CSR strategy will involve all three.

People refers to an organisation’s commitment to their customers and their employees. It means treating staff fairly and ensuring worker’s rights are being met at all stages of the supply chain. It means considering your team, your customers, and the wider communities that your company has an impact on.

CSR activities in this area could include sponsoring local community groups or events, providing opportunities for employee volunteering , creating a mental health at work policy which includes ‘mental health days’ or partnering with local non-profits to address key social issues in your area.

Planet considers your company’s environmental impact. Architect Cameron Sinclair (Cameron Sinclair | Speaker | TED) once claimed that sustainability should be viewed as a matter of survival for a business. Essentially, there will be no business to set goals for in the future if we do not collectively work towards more sustainable practices.

CSR actions here may include examining your supply chain and energy suppliers using a tool such as the B-Impact assessment to assess whether your company’s processes are having a positive or negative impact on the environment. The B-Impact assessment tool will highlight areas of concern and provide suggestions to improve these. You may also want to make smaller changes such as switching to eco-friendly cleaning supplies in the office, using ethical brands for office supplies, and creating a more flexible working environment that doesn’t require employees to commute to work every day (something that should be easier for most companies after a year of working from home during the pandemic).

And finally, profits. These are unlikely to be forgotten amongst noble aims to combat climate change and support local communities. Economic sustainability is, of course, vital to the survival and prosperity of acompany, and feeds the ability to create greater impact all around. However, a socially responsible approach to profit is a far cry from Friedman’s controversial claim that ‘the sole responsibility of business is to create profit’. A for-profit company has a responsibility to its stakeholders to make profit, yes. But most modern business leaders agree that it also has a responsibility to its shareholders, to not simply minimise harm, but to actively do good.

CSR activities to support this goal could include being more transparent about supply chains, governance models, and accounting methods. Actions such as examining and eliminating the gender pay gap in your organisation, committing to fundraising or philanthropic donations, and ensuring your employees are receiving the national living wage, are all effective ways to bring an understanding of CSR to your economic responsibilities.

And if you have to raise your prices in order to make any of these changes economically viable, rest assured that many studies have found that consumers on the whole are willing to pay up to 20% more for more ethical products.

Aligning CSR with wider business goals

So, now you have considered your corporate social responsibility ambitions and taken the first steps towards setting some goals, it’s important to pause and consider how your CSR goals align with your wider business goals.

Say your company’s number one goal this year is to increase market share. How will your CSR goals help to get you closer to this goal?

Well, for a start, increasing your community impact by partnering with local charities, sponsoring community events, or giving your employees time to volunteer with local organisations will help to widen your network and introduce your company to new audiences in a positive light.

Supporting your employees with mental health policies and decent wages, treating them fairly, and showing that you see them as human beings rather than instruments to increase your company’s profits can have untold benefits. Employees who feel valued and supported will provide a higher level of customer service and are more likely to speak positively about your company to friends and family. Your team are your greatest asset and will cement your reputation and possibly bring you new customers through word-of-mouth referrals if you treat them well.

Nowadays, consumers are incredibly discerning and willing to vote with their purse strings for companies who they feel align with their personal values (or boycott those who do not). Setting CSR goals and backing them up with clear, tangible, and well-communicated actions can be an effective way to reach your wider business goals, grow your profits and increase your market share.

Stastista Graphic - This statistic presents the share of consumers willing to pay 20 percent or more for an ethical product in the United Kingdom (UK) as of 2017, broken down by generation. Among those surveyed, 34 percent of those in the Generation Z (aged between 16 and 24 years) said they would pay 20 percent or more for an ethical product. This share fell as the age of respondents increased, with only five percent of the Generation BB (over 55 years) making the same claim.

Implementing CSR goals – how to make things happen

Once you have set CSR goals, and aligned them to your wider business objectives, you need to form a plan of action. You have promised to be more ethical – how do you make sure that you actually do it?

The keys to success at this stage are:

  • Ownership – assigning leaders to drive these actions forward and report back on progress each month is an important step to create and maintain accountability and avoid ‘greenwashing’.
  • Processes – make it easy for your company to reach your goals by creating ways to consistently measure, track, and move forward with your objectives. Get your project management gurus in to help you make the ambitious achievable.
  • Measurement – how will you know what is working if you are not measuring your progress? There are a number of measurement tools you can use to keep track of your CSR activities, such as the GRI or the Balanced Scorecard Methodology. Find the way that works for you and give it a go – you can re-assess this quarterly or annually to make sure it is still working for you.
  • Community – without the support of your team and your wider community, your big CSR goals simply won’t happen. Take time to communicate why you are making changes and what you are hoping to achieve in order to help get your people on board.

What next?

The UN advises ‘setting ambitious goals, even if you don’t yet know how to achieve them’ in order to inspire innovation and engagement. This is all well and good but we all know how easy it is to set yourself up for failure by setting unachievable goals.

This doesn’t mean ignore the UN advice. Absolutely, be bold and set yourself some hugely ambitious goals. (At Social Good Connect our aim is to create £100m of social impact by 2030 – crazy right!?) But break down this big, hairy goal into more manageable chunks, assign ownership to suitable team members, and make it easy for yourself to succeed with relevant processes and consistent measurement.

For inspiration on how to start smaller with CSR, why not get involved with community impact programmes such as the B-Corp movement, or B1G1 where you can build charitable giving into every sale you make? Or give your team 30 minutes a week to get involved with telephone befriending or give skilled advice to a non-profit organisation.

Finding small, easily achievable ways to drive forward your bigger CSR goals will ensure you keep moving forward and will keep your team motivated month on month.

If you want to learn more about how Social Good Connect can help you get started with setting and working towards CSR goals, please get in touch, or sign up to our mailing list to receive tips and advice on building purpose into your business.

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