As consumers and employees are becoming increasingly interested in environmental, governance and social issues, more and more businesses have begun paying attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR) – but what is it?
To put it simply, CSR is a business’ commitment to behave in a socially responsible way, helping to contribute to the creation of a more positive and sustainable society. Essentially, it’s when a company is committing to doing something for the greater good and not just for their own benefit.
Whilst the majority of newer brands have built their businesses to align with their CSR strategies, many legacy brands have often been left behind. With growing concerns surrounding key issues such as global warming and equality, now is the time to get on board with CSR or risk your business fading away.
But what are the benefits of CSR for your brand?
Your CSR strategy needs to be sustainable. It must align with your business model, tell a story and demonstrate impact. Focusing on CSR can help to:
- Strengthen your brand: by demonstrating that you care about the wider society – not just increasing profits and revenue – you will attract and retain more customers. They will feel more connected to your brand as you are giving back to their community and fighting for causes that matter to them.
- Attract and retain talent: the current and future workforce are millennials and Gen Z who are much more concerned with how a company impacts the world around them. A recent survey from Glassdoor found that 75% of 18-34-year-olds expect their employer to have some form of CSR strategy in place, and research by Net Impact concluded that 72% of students looking to enter full-time employment were keen to join a company where they could make a positive impact on society.
- Build stronger relationships with your stakeholders: gone are the days where stakeholders care about nothing other than profits. These days, a triple bottom line approach is frequently adopted, meaning social and environmental concerns are valued just as much as profits.
- Be a differentiator: with many markets becoming overcrowded, engaging in a CSR strategy can help your business to cut through the noise and give customers a reason to do business with you.
So, how do you get started?
You don’t have to be an international brand with million-dollar profits to commit to operating your business in a socially responsible way. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business may be, there are always ways for you to get involved with CSR, including:
- Working with a relevant cause
- Focus on engagement
- Identify and engage with key stakeholders
- Use your tools
The simplest way to introduce CSR into your business is by aligning your company with a charity that is related to your business. For example, if you’re a technology company, you may choose to support a cause such as NPower. Alternatively, you may choose to support a local cause that benefits the community that you live and/or work in. There really is no right or wrong.
Your employees are the heart and soul of your company, so it’s important that they are on board with your CSR strategy. Find out what matters to them and what they are most passionate about and consider this in your CSR strategy. Communicate the importance of CSR practices to them by providing updates on your company’s progression and demonstrating the impact of your work. You should also allow volunteer days to keep engagement high amongst your employees.
Working with key stakeholders who are influential at all levels is a good way to strengthen the messaging across all areas of your organisation, ensuring your CSR strategy is a success.
Promoting the work you’re doing externally will elevate your brand to customers and prospects. For example, using a social media channel, such as Instagram, to focus specifically on the causes you support, adds a human element to your brand and can help establish stronger, emotional relationships with your audience.
By considering your company goals and aligning them with causes that matter to your business, you can attract and retain the best talent, increase your reach, differentiate your brand and have a positive impact on the world around you. 2020 has highlighted the importance of community, so make sure your business is part of one and think, how are you helping society?