Introduction to CSR: Could CSR boost your business?

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is all about reviewing your company’s wider impact on both the local and global communities. How does CSR work and more importantly, how it could benefit your business?

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

CSR is a business model that works towards becoming a socially accountable organisation. Strategies are formed to cope with CSR issues — leading to policy formation and operational activities. The following factors represent some of the biggest influences on CSR formation:

Recognition – CSR seeks to examine how your business shows up in the world. What effect is your business having on people and the planet, and how can you solve more problems that you are creating?

Changing opinions – Google is one company that famously used their policy of “do no evil” to present a new kind of responsible strategy, focused on generating positive change.

Responding to public concern – in recent years pressure has increased for companies to act in a socially responsible manner and many have reacted appropriately. A good example is Starbucks committing to a reduction of plastic straw use.

An increasing trend – in 2011 over 97% of FTSE 100 companies FTSE 100 reported some kind of CSR strategy in their annual reports — up from 80% of companies in 2007. This demonstrates that CSR is fast becoming an important concern for all big business.

Here are some of the most notable benefits of putting a CSR strategy in place in your business, illustrated with real-world examples to inspire you:

Taking care of the community

They say charity begins at home and this is a sentiment that is surely not lost on the CSR team at Molson Coors Canada. The company has invested more heavily in responsible drinking education and started the TaxiGuy service, a driving service for those too over the limit to drive home. They have even covered the cost of public transport in key locations on New Year’s Eve to ensure everyone has the very best time.

Fantastic PR opportunities

Bees are critical to the world’s crops, yet their numbers are falling. Considering the impact their pollination service has on world farming crops, this is a worry for everyone, including ice cream manufacturer Haagen-Dazs. The iconic ice cream brand includes bee-derived ingredients in more than a third of their flavours.

Haagen-Dazs’ response has been the Honey Bees campaign for over 10 years. The campaign has seen limited run products hit the shelves and a portion of sales profits donated to research this bee-specific issue. The move generated a huge degree of interest on social media, featuring in over 640K tweets and raising $7K for their cause in 48 hours. Haagen-Dazs have been helping these extraordinary pollinators for over a decade now.

Increased staff loyalty

Salesforce is one company that understands that giving is about more than simply passing on profit. Every year, the organisation donates 1% of its profit, employee’s time and equity to charities as part of its ongoing CSR drive as part of the Pledge 1% campaign. Pledge 1% invites all entrepreneurs and their companies to commit important resources (product, time, and resources) to support integrating philanthropy into their business from an early stage.

What does this mean in actual man hours and time? Every Salesforce employee is given 6 days of full pay to work for the charity of their choice. This could be anything from sitting in a charity shop to getting out on the front line and delivering services to the homeless or cleaning natural sites of waste. This has created a bond between management and the workforce that is the envy of many other tech companies.

Helping you win new business

Both customers and companies now want to know they are working with responsible providers. They will often choose more ethically aware suppliers over the competition, even at a higher price point. This is especially true when it comes to ecologically conscious companies, with the future of our planet a hot-button topic.

Proof of your commitment to green issues can be achieved with ISO 14001 certification, putting processes in place to continually reduce your waste and carbon footprint. Achieving this certificate demonstrates an adherence to environmentally friendly standards.

Additionally when you submit a tender for certain contracts, proving that your company is environmentally astute is an essential requirement. Often companies with ISO 14001 are considered pre-qualified for these agreements.

Setting your company apart from the competition

Implementing CSR policies says more about your company than the output of the various associated programs and activities. It demonstrates your values and an awareness of the wider context of your business. With so many organisations focused on the bottom line and return on investment for shareholders, effective CSR marketing can help you stand out from the crowd.

It is often said that people want to do business with people, which is true. But more than that, people want to do business with people like them. Caring about your impact on the world is a very attractive proposition to most potential customers as 91% of global customers expect businesses to operate responsibly and address social and community issues.

If you are considering developing CSR policies for your company, there is a wealth of evidence from some of the world’s leading brands that doing so can create a positive impact on several fronts. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture either. Often the most meaningful changes are those that take place over time, like continually improving waste management, car-pooling or putting on drives for local charities.

Businesses should be striving to look after our global community, just as they do for shareholders. It’s encouraging to know that an increasing number of organisations are hearing this call and taking action. Why not be one of them?

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Written by Neill Gatley

EMS Scheme Manager - Experienced management systems Lead Auditor and EMS Scheme Leader. Assessing clients management systems to the requirements of ISO 14001, ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001, OHSAS 18001.