How to design a strategic corporate social responsibility program?
Gone are the days when Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was something that companies and organizations would get away with just by extending some funds to charities. In recent years, CSR has evolved into claiming its own identity with a promise of building a better, more sustainable, and equitable world.
CSR practices are no more a hasty, makeshift campaign by organizations to ‘look good’, it has evolved into an imperative, almost indispensable, tool for companies to profit and gain customers and loyalists. Today, no one is keen on investing their money or resources into something which doesn’t have its act ‘clean’ or has no ‘sustainable’ vision for society or the planet.
A robust yet holistic CSR strategy, therefore, figures at the heart of any corporate entity. Before we go on to discuss ways that can lead to an effective CSR strategy, let us talk about the many advantages and benefits of good CSR practices.
Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility to an organization
- Stronger ties with stakeholders, employees, customers, regulatory bodies
- Better funding, financing prospects
- Employee retention
- Stronger brand image → increased sales
- Customer loyalty
- Operational cost savings
Succinctly put, with a rock-solid CSR strategy, your organization is bound to build a strong brand image. When customers, stakeholders, employees, and various other parties see your commitment toward the environment and society, they naturally feel more inclined to be associated with you. This leads to better sales, better funding and financing prospects, more employee retention, increased customer loyalty, and support from various government and regulatory bodies.
Building a fool-proof, effective CSR strategy is no rocket science, following are some simple steps that can be part of your rule book for devising CSR practices for your organization or impact project.
Define your vision & your aspirations
First things first, it is important for you to define your vision. Think about what CSR means to you and your organization and what kind of impact would you like to create. You would not just simply want to be ‘seen’ doing good but actually be the propeller of significant, meaningful change. Define the overall mission of your company & then your CSR project to derive an effective strategy.
A thorough evaluation of your existing activities will help you understand what all the company is already engaged in with respect to CSR. You may therefore get an idea about unexplored areas that can be tapped. For example, you may decide that your project needs to engage more in philanthropic causes, or focus more on reducing the waste produced at your manufacturing unit, et cetera. It is also advisable to identify issues that are most significant and closely linked to your business.
You would certainly want to monitor and learn from others in your sector and the issues that they are invested in tackling under their CSR campaign. The idea is not to mimic them but to identify ways in which you can go beyond.
Carefully listen to your customers and stakeholders to identify issues that affect them and are most important to them. These should form the focus area of your CSR strategy, this way you will gain support and long-standing loyalty from customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
Identify and align
Your CSR practices should seamlessly integrate into your overall business strategy. It should become a way to drive your business rather than being just another part of it. You must also be on the lookout for new opportunities, better ways to serve your cause, new technology, partnerships, et cetera.
Last but not the least, your CSR initiatives need to have proper success metrics and measurement as much as any part of your business. You need to be able to measure the impact or outcomes you create with your CSR program in order to
- Judge their effectiveness
- The progress made
- Communicate it clearly to your stakeholders.
Tip: Don’t forget to keep the channel of communication open with various parties. Listen to them, engage, and also regularly communicate with both internal and external stakeholders. “With great power comes great responsibility”,
it might be an overused cheesy dialogue from the Spider-Man movies, but the message is still relevant for all of us and more so for corporate companies. If you would like to discuss more on how you can create an effective CSR program for your company, then feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our CSR & Sustainability Advisory Services.