What is CSR?
CSR stands for "Corporate Social Responsibility" which is a self-regulatory policy integrated into a company's business model. Although first introduced in the 1960's, CSR is a subject that has been gaining strength again in the past few years, so much so that many larger companies have hired managers and whole teams in order to keep an active eye on the organization's compliance with ethical standards, both internally and externally.
CSR is based on the idea that a business's success and social welfare are cyclically connected. When a business invests in social good it not only affects the economy and workforce, but also leads to Goodwill for the company and a favorable standing in the eyes of most consumers.
And this is becoming more important in today's society as Millennials take over as the group controlling the highest percentage of spending power. Millennials are viewing charitable giving and volunteer work not as options but as responsibilities, and often make purchasing decisions based on a company's social impact.
This might come easier for some companies (especially larger ones) than others, so here are a few things your company can do to start strengthening its CSR reputation.
An easy, first step is to review your company's environmental standing. Recycling, water management and using renewable resources are quick wins for your company and cost next to nothing. A more serious step would be adopting a "greener" supply chain, one that cuts down on emissions and aims to minimize its carbon footprint. Using sustainable products in the workplace, cutting down on the use of paper (hello, email!) and exploring the use of renewable energies are other ways to inject sustainability into your organization's operations.
Support Fair Labor
Often times a company's operation choices are made with only price in mind. Get something adequate for the lowest price. However, sometimes this can lead to an unfavorable image, both internally and externally.
For example, many companies might be unknowingly supporting poor labor standards by ordering their uniforms or corporate apparel based on price alone. Made in Freedom is a textile print company here in Germany that works exclusively with "Freedom" businesses that have saved women from the sex slave industry in India by employing them fairly and respectfully.
Yes, your next order of company t-shirts could literally save a life.
On top of that, their high quality products are organic, ethical and Fair Trade certified. If you have to buy corporate apparel anyway, this is a great way to make a significant change in people's lives and earn some Goodwill for your company.
Giving directly to charitable organizations has long been a way for companies to show their social interest. However, as some larger companies have found out, simply slicing a percentage off of the profit at the end of the year in order to keep taxes in check can actually be more harmful for a company's image.
Giving to charities should be viewed as an investment, not for the company, but an investment into others. For this reason, investing time might be an even better option for your company. This giving must be intentional, well planned and void of ulterior motives. Social responsibility is, at its core, about helping others.
Keep in Mind
A few things to keep in mind as you weigh your options.
- Whatever your company chooses to do, make sure it is done with authenticity. Many organizations have tried using CSR in order to distract from other poor business practices. Your CSR actions should be the cherry on the cake, not lipstick on the pig.
- In order to maximize the return (again, the ROI for those you are helping, not your company) invest in things that make sense with your business, your mission and your vision.
- Do the easy things first, but don't be afraid of a challenge. Some amazing changes can happen when we get outside our comfort zone.
- Do your research! Unfortunately there are untrustworthy players in the social responsibility world. Before investing in anything, find out exactly how your money/time/brand identity will be used. Reputations can be made or ruined by who your company chooses to align itself.
For more information about putting your company budget to good use,