CSR is a relatively new business mantra. Everyone is doing it; but why? Well, you don’t want to appear anti-social or irresponsible do you? A lame, but very typical response. Cosmetic approaches, that just put a gloss over ‘business as usual’ practices, may have the opposite effect to that intended. Here is a simple guide to put you on the right path to workable coporate social responsibility.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Do a CSR audit. CSR is all about the interaction a business has with the rest of society. This means not just core stakeholders such as customers, employees, investors and suppliers, but includes the wider community. Then ask the questions: Does the business interact with these groups in a way that is responsible? Are practices fair, honest and open, and do they build goodwill?
- Look at employment practices. Does the company follow enlightened policies on recruitment, training, health, safety and welfare?
- Look at marketing practices. Is the company building enduring relationships with customers by meeting and exceeding customer expectations?
- Look at environmental practices. Does the company follow practices that are sustainable and responsible in regard to material and energy inputs, processes and waste avoidance?
- Look at community involvement. Is the company a good neighbour and does it play an active and constructive role in the community?
- Benchmark. Look at others in your industry and compare their performance with yours. Look for the best examples you can find. There are no patents on good practice so follow or better the best.
- Understand why you need CSR. Your reputation can affect the perception of customers, investors, employees and potential trade partners. Project the wrong image and customers and investors will not be keen on parting with their money, skilled employees may take their talents elsewhere and other businesses will shun you.
- Explain CSR and also counter cynicism. Every manager and employee should understand the importance of CSR to the business and to themselves. A properly designed CSR programme will have positive benefits for marketing, HR, production and key business areas. If people understand this, they will take ownership and responsibility.
- Explain CSR to your external stakeholders. Investors may see CSR as adding cost. The opposite is usually true. Enlightened HR practice will help you recruit and retain the committed and productive employees the business needs. Customer focussed marketing helps retain customers and may reduce churn and associated cost. Good environmental practice may actually drive down costs and improve business processes.
- Celebrate success. As you pass significant CSR milestones, make sure you tell everyone. Perception is so often based on historic information that is totally wrong. The world has changed, your business is changing – let people know.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Don’t make token gestures. CSR is not about business as usual with some good work on the side. This often throws poor practice into sharper focus.
- Don’t apply different standards. Given our global village, moving a dirty process to a less regulated country or applying vastly different standards in different parts of the business can seriously harm your reputation.
- Don’t stand still. Issues change with time, look ahead, take the public pulse, see what legislators are up to and update the CSR programme to stay ahead of the game.
- Don’t slide and backtrack. Appoint someone or even a team to ensure policies are implemented.
- Don’t do a King Canute. CSR and the issues that drive it are usually irreversible. It is better to stay ahead and on the right side of key issues.