What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a term that is by now fully embedded within the consciousness of the business world. But what does it mean, how can it benefit your business and how can you get involved in CSR-related activity?

WHAT IS CSR? Adopting a CSR policy is a business’s way of showing that its operations are ethical; that it takes account of its social, economic and environmental impact and is working to give back to the local community. CSR can involve a range of activities, but usually most businesses form a partnership with local community groups and charities.

WHY IS CSR SO IMPORTANT? In recent years, there have been increased demands from Government bodies, customers and employees for business to be more open about their activities and maintain high standards in their business practice. In the age of social media and instant news, a business can very quickly lose its reputation and customers if not seen to be taking the steps to act more ethically.

BENEFITS CSR has many benefits that can be applied to any business, whether a large corporation or a smaller enterprise.

Improve your public image: Many consumers will asses your public

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image before they decide whether to buy from you or not. If you can show proof that your brand is committed to helping others, it can help boost your popularity and increase your brand recognition.

Gain an advantage: If you establish yourself as a company willing to go a step further in promoting social and environmental charities or partnerships, it will help you stand out from your competitors. It can also help you stand out to your investors, who are more likely to invest in businesses that engage with important social issues.

Employee benefits: Giving back to your local community will help you develop a more engaged and motivated workforce. Your workplace will be a more positive place to work, and by promoting such activities as volunteering, you will encourage your staff to work on personal growth and professional development.

Attract top candidates: People want to work for organisations that take CSR seriously. Demonstrating your commitment to CSR will help you attract and retain the best candidates.

Giving back: Your chosen charity or organisation will also get a lot out of your partnership. You may be able to provide volunteers, funding, awareness and exposure.

ADOPT A CSR STRATEGY It might seem like a daunting task, but adopting a CSR programme can be easy once you break it into manageable steps. You should aim to build CSR into the fabric of your business, as this will make it easier in the long-term to maintain high standards.

Choose a relevant issue: The cause you champion should, in most cases, be relevant to your business. If, for example, you own a logistics and transportation firm, look to work with an organisation that can help you reduce your carbon footprint and raise awareness about sustainability.

Engage key stakeholders: To get your staff on board and engaged with the project, ask your employees to suggest their own ways for the business to get involved with CSR or what they would like to change about the organisation. Also, consider your customers' needs, because you

need them to be on board with your efforts.

Find the right partners: Finding a local charitable organisation to work with is a great way to go as it will demonstrate your interest in the local community, but it is also important to find a group with whom you can establish a personal connection. Strong relationships will inspire more engagement with your staff and customers.

Build credibility: It is not enough to simply announce your intentions to do good – you must back those words with actions. Put together a committee of staff to spearhead your CSR campaign and make an action plan that details the aims of your charitable relationship, your budget (for donations, events etc.) and volunteering opportunities for staff.

It is also of vital importance that

your business is not seen as exploiting CSR opportunities for the sake of your reputation. Don’t bounce from one social cause to another – any sign of hypocrisy or insincerity can seriously damage any effort you make to do a bit of good.

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