The primary purpose of a business is twofold: to serve customers and to make money doing it. However, there’s a third purpose that’s been steadily gaining steam in modern culture – many believe businesses have a responsibility to give back outside of their company, too.
Forming a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program makes a business stronger by engaging its employees in meaningful work both in and out of the office. These programs reinforce company values and build trust with customers, all while impacting others in a positive way.
Here are three ideas for creating an effective corporate social responsibility program for your company:
Follow Company Values
Wildly successful CSR programs tend to have roots in company values. When business and CSR goals start from similar values, they appeal to the same group of people and grow together organically. Here’s an example.
Suppose you work at a tech company that has decided to donate a specific sum of money to a CSR program every year. There are innumerable needs, causes, and charities this money could go to, and it may seem difficult to pick the best one. Here are some questions this company could ask to find the right CSR program for them:
- What groups can we impact with our specialty in technology?
- How can we give back to employee needs or interests?
- What causes do our customers care about?
- What partnerships would generate trust for our company?
This fictional tech company could decide to run technology summer camps for school children. It could donate digital devices to local schools or encourage employees to run in a race that raises money for education. Depending on the customer base, the ideal CSR program may be holding classes that guide seniors in how to use advanced technology. The most effective CSR program will align with a company’s identity to contribute to a cause their customer base and employees care about.
Step Out of the Box
Before your company starts benefiting others, it should take a close look at employee experience and internal company structure. Sometimes, the best CSR program means reform from within – like pledging to lower the environmental impact of products or establishing a healthier supply chain that fights child slavery. Ensuring employees are treated and fairly given enough rest is another way to build trust as a brand.
After doing an internal check, your company can invest its resources into external CSR programs. To benefit the local community, consider hosting trash pick-up days, starting a community garden, or funding a new park. Creating green spaces and donating labor to preserve them is a small way your company can give back. The impact of these spaces lasts for years and impact many people from all walks of life.
Your company’s CSR program doesn’t have to fit the traditional mold – brainstorm unique ways that your company can give back to your local community or specific industry. A CSR program can start very small or involve multiple steps and a larger goal. Remember to scale your CSR program to suit the size and resources of your company and employees. Investing in corporate social responsibility should lead to company returns that will go even further next year.
Record Your CSR Efforts
An essential part of building trust through corporate social responsibility programs is publicity. However, recording a company’s strategy and efforts isn’t just for the public – it also helps companies evaluate their work, report to stakeholders, and reassess their goals for next year.
Internal communication is crucial for creating a healthy CSR program. A thriving CSR depends on nailing down the nitty-gritty details of what you want to accomplish and how you’ll do it. Employees should also understand and be excited about the connection between the program and the company mission. If your employees are confused or uncomfortable with their CSR program, customers will be too.
Sometimes, donations or gifts can do more harm than good, something known as giving “dead aid.” Many companies have had to pivot after realizing their donations disrupted local industries or weren’t meeting the root need in a community. Without clear records, it’ll be challenging to measure the effectiveness of your CSR program.
Embrace Company Influence
Businesses today don’t just make money. They create tribes of like-minded customers and carry a lot of influence through social media and structural choices. Corporate responsibility programs are there to channel this influence for good and continue to shape your company’s purpose.
Follow these three steps to set up an effective CSR program that will excite employees, inspire customers, and reflect the values your company is built on. It’s only up from here!
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