If you’ve ever eaten a chocolate bar that has the Fairtrade label on the front or bought an item of clothing with a tag that says ‘sustainably sourced fabric’, then you’ve participated in the growing trend of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Corporate social responsibility is the umbrella term used to describe organizations’ efforts to improve their social and environmental impacts, beyond what is legally required of them. It is all about making sure businesses contribute positively to the community they are a part of.
There are a number of reasons why companies are increasingly interested in CSR. Firstly, there is an increasing demand from consumers for ethical and sustainable products. Secondly, companies are recognizing that CSR can be good for business — it can help to attract new customers, improve employee morale and even reduce costs.
However, corporate social responsibility can also be challenging for businesses. It requires a commitment to long-term change and can be difficult to measure the results of your efforts. In this article, we’ll explore how businesses can embrace CSR and make it a part of their sustainable strategy.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Explained
According to a report by AFLAC, almost 80% of customers are driven to purchase from companies that prioritize the betterment of the world around them. This also goes for investors, with over 70% being motivated to support companies that contribute to the community in which they exist.
Referred to as “corporate social responsibility” (CSR), this is the umbrella term for all sustainable business practices that go beyond maximizing profits. Simply put, it’s the idea that businesses should do more than just turn a profit — they should also work to improve the world around them.
There are plenty of reasons for companies to adopt CSR policies. Not only does it make good business sense, but consumers and investors are increasingly demanding it. In this age of social media and instant communication, it’s easier than ever for people to learn about a company’s CSR policies — and to share that information with others.
There are many ways for businesses to get involved in corporate social responsibility. Some common initiatives include reducing environmental impact, promoting social equity, and supporting the local community. No matter what approach a company takes, the most important thing is that it’s authentic and aligns with the company’s values.
Why does it matter?
So, why should companies follow the corporate social responsibility model? The answer is simple: it matters to the bottom line. A 2011 study by researcher Robert Eccles and his team at Harvard Business School found that companies with strong CSR practices achieved a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those without such practices.
In other words, good corporate citizenship pays off.
And it’s not just about the bottom line. Consumers, employees, and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in the social and environmental practices of the companies they do business with. They want to know that their purchases are supporting sustainable businesses — not causing harm.
In fact, a 2012 study by Cone Communications found that nine out of 10 Americans would take their business elsewhere if they learned a company was involved in unethical practices.
But it isn’t just about the bottom line — following a CSR model can truly make a positive impact on the world around us. For example, Google has committed to powering all of its data centers with renewable energy, which is not only environmentally responsible but has also helped to create new markets for renewable energy providers.
And there are plenty of other examples. Unilever, for instance, has a Sustainable Living Plan that commits the company to reduce its environmental impact and improve the livelihoods of people in its supply chain. Walmart also has its Sustainable Product Index, which rates products based on their environmental and social attributes.
Who is actively taking part?
A few examples of brands and companies with corporate social responsibility initiatives are as follows:
Ben & Jerry’s
The Vermont-based ice cream company has a long history of being involved in social and environmental activism. For example, they have a policy of using only Fairtrade certified ingredients, they work to reduce their carbon footprint, and they support numerous causes such as marriage equality and climate change activism.
This clothing company has become well-known for its commitment to sustainability. For example, they use recycled materials in their products, donate money to environmental causes, and work to reduce their carbon footprint.
TOMS is a company that is best known for its one-for-one model, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased. In addition to this, TOMS also supports numerous causes such as water conservation and providing clean water to people in need.
There are many other brands and companies that have corporate social responsibility initiatives, and these are just a few examples. So how can your business follow in their footsteps?
Achieving a Sustainable Business
Now that we have reviewed some of the many companies that have boarded the CSR train, let’s discuss how your business can embrace this model and achieve a sustainable business.
The key to success with CSR is integrating it into your company’s DNA. This means that it should be more than just a one-time project or effort — it needs to be ingrained in your decision-making process, from the top down.
In order to do this, you’ll need to create a CSR strategy. This will outline your company’s goals and objectives, as well as the methods you’ll use to achieve them.
Your Corporate Social Responsibility strategy
One of the most important aspects of a CSR strategy is communication. You’ll need to ensure that all employees are aware of your efforts and understand why they’re important. This helps to create a company-wide culture of sustainability, which is essential for long-term success.
You’ll also need to make sure that your CSR strategy is aligned with your business’s overall goals and company culture. This means that it should be practical and achievable, and it should fit in with your budget. It’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve and not set yourself up for failure.
To make your CSR strategy, follow these simple steps:
- Define your company’s core values.
- Identify the environmental and social issues that are most important to you.
- Develop goals and objectives for your CSR strategy.
- Create a plan of action, including specific targets and timelines.
- Implement and monitor your CSR strategy.
- Evaluate your progress and make changes as needed.
- Communicate your CSR achievements to stakeholders.
Of course, simply having a CSR strategy isn’t enough — you also need to put it into action. This means implementing sustainable practices throughout your business, from the way you source your materials to the way you treat your employees.
Sustainability is about more than just being environmentally friendly, though that’s an important part of it. It’s also about creating a business that can be sustained over the long term, both environmentally and financially.
There are a number of ways to make your business more sustainable. For example, you can:
- Use recycled materials in your products or packaging
- Switch to energy-efficient lighting and appliances
- Use green transportation options, such as biking or public transportation
- Reduce water consumption
- Promote waste reduction and recycling
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products
- Implement energy conservation measures
Many of these changes can also save you money in the long run, even if they require an investment upfront.
Maintaining your Corporate Social Responsibility model into the future
It’s one thing to start your corporate social responsibility plan, but the challenge then is to make sure your new regulations and standards are maintained well into the future. If your CSR model isn’t maintained, there may not be sufficient time to have a positive impact on your community.
One way to ensure your CSR plan is successful is by involving as many people in the decision-making process as possible. This will create a sense of ownership and responsibility for those who are implementing the plan. Furthermore, it’s important that everyone understands why the CSR plan is being put into place and what the goals are.
Creating a CSR plan is an important way to show your dedication to responsible business practices, but it’s also important to remember that you can always improve on your plan. Continuously monitoring and evaluating your CSR program is one of the best ways to make sure it’s having the desired impact.
There are many benefits to remodeling your business to be more socially responsible. You can increase profits, create a more sustainable business and help improve the lives of others. However, it is not always easy to do so.
There are many different ways to embrace corporate social responsibility, and each business will need to find the approach that works best for them. By following the tips above, you can create a socially responsible business that is both profitable and sustainable.