Introduction to CSR

27/05/2011

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Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is something that was started by fashionable ‘ethical’ businesses. Realising that promoting a responsible way of doing business actually improved the bottom line soon received wider interest, and now demonstrating responsibility has become expected when bidding for major contracts. With now being the time to question your organisation’s value, see the benefits of CSR by reading on below.


The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility can be explained quite simply; it is doing the right thing. Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR for short, is about how your organisation’s existence affects stakeholders beyond your own insular interests, recognising the impact your operations have on the community at large.

Adopting CSR considers how you can use this impact in a positive way, leading to sustainable growth and financial gains. Over the years, CSR has become more and more popular; back in 2007 more than 80% of the FTSE 100 index reported on Corporate Social Responsibility within their Annual Report.

Well recognised names, such as Google, well known for  their “Do No Evil” slogan, helped popularise what was once considered something only done by ‘do-gooders’. Now, almost all major brands have CSR policies, some of which can be seen below.

Corporate Responsibility, J Sainsbury

Corporate Responsibility, Timberland

Our Ethics, Innocent Drinks

Corporate Social Responsibility, Sony

But its not just large multi-national companies who are benefiting thanks to CSR, smaller organisations are following suit now ‘doing good’ has been proven to reap major rewards…

What are the benefits of adopting CSR?

With the world of business being as competitive as ever, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Suppliers have to work harder to win contracts, so developing a CSR policy is a way of demonstrating your integrity, which can only reflect well on your customers. In fact, some customers don’t just prefer working with responsible companies, they demand it! This is particularly prevalent in the public sector, who are expected to set the standard. No surprises then to find that Government has set out its ambitions for Corporate Social Responsibility already.

Corporate Social Responsibility (PDF),  UK Government

Reducing the amount of resources used and the waste produced isn’t just beneficial for the environment, it aids the bottom line by saving you money. When you start to measure the amount of energy, water and other resources against what you actually need, cost savings start to become obvious.

Engaging and giving back to the community is a good way of earning positive press coverage. From sponsoring a charity event, to hiring staff locally, your CSR efforts can boost your reputation massively, potentially leading to more customers. Understanding the wider impact of your business through initiatives like this can also help develop new products and/or services.

Further publicity can be gained by winning CSR related awards. There are many local, regional and national awards based around CSR and the environment.

With CSR being ever popular, you may find yourselves reaching a network of like-minded businesses who wish to do business together. Naturally, CSR-focused businesses want to ensure their supply chain follows suit to further boost their own efforts and to protect their reputation. With ethical and not-for-profit organisations numerous, there could be an untapped market waiting for what you offer.

How do you get started?

Getting started on your CSR policy can’t be simply a case of downloading a template of the web. It’s important to research your CSR issues, assess your organisation against them and develop your core values and mission. In other words, it must have real value.

In order to demonstrate your CSR formally, you could work towards a management standard which, upon certification, would prove that your credentials have been externally verified. When it comes to the environment, you can prove your eco-friendliness with the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard, which is internationally recognised and has been implemented by hundreds of thousands of organisations worldwide. With an update to the ISO 14001 standard around the corner, it will become increasingly prevalent as it will include requirements on social responsibility and enaging with the supply chain.

Effective CSR like the above allows you to differentiate your organisation from the competition. It can lead to the development of new products and services that have adapted thanks to stakeholder involvement and new internal values. This can develop you into a powerful brand, and a strongly performing business. Some examples of CSR innovation are below:

Molson Coors Canada

Its difficult for a company that sells alcohol to look particularly socially responsible. However, Molson Coors Canada has used CSR to enhance its image, investing more in responsible drinking education than it does on actual alcohol related events. They have reached out to the community by being the founding sponsor for ‘TaxiGuy’, which offers a safe ride home for those who’ve had one too many, and they’ve also covered the cost of public transport on New Year’s Eve

Haagen-Dazs

You may not know that honeybees have been disappearing at a disturbing rate, which isn’t good news considering they responsible for a third of all food we eat, including ice-cream! This is where Haagen-Dazs came in, donating a portion of proceeds from their special honeybee brand to help research on the issue. Of course, by launching a product involved with the campaign, it gave the company a lot of positive exposure to their clients about how good they are. They also used the power of social media to spread the campaign across Twitter. The ‘buzz’ generated over 640,000 tweets and $7,000 in just 2 days.

Salesforce

Many examples like the above can found, but there are others out there that go further than what is essentially writing a big cheque once in a while. One such company is Salesforce. Their CSR policy is to give 1% of its profit (in the form of products), 1% of its employees’ time, and 1% of its equity to charities and other non-profit organisations. Salesforce employees are able to do 6 days of charity work each year and are actively encouraged to support charities of their own volition. This has reaped rewards when it comes to employee motivation and retention.


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