Working with such a diverse array of clients provides me with a unique insight, not only into their businesses and market sectors, it also makes me aware of the opportunities that businesses can explore outside of the efficiencies and proactive methods of growth that we explore. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is certainly one these.
Whether you are a small independent business or an international market leader, demonstrating your understanding of CSR says a lot about your company ethics. CSR, corporate citizenship, call it what you will, what we’re talking about here is evidence that you care and that you are proactive in your caring. Heavily sector relevant, the actions you take can make a difference to your local community, to suppliers, to the environment and future generations.
The corporate world has its own CSR innovators
Financial giant, Barclays’ flagship, annual ‘Make a Difference’ volunteering campaign, encourages staff to give time and skills (during working hours) and rewards them through an awards scheme, to help deliver the Shared Growth Ambition program. Google’s Project Loon, a network of floating satellites near space which will provide internet access to some of the 4.1 billion people who don’t have it. Asda’s wonky veg box. Ikea’s solar farm, bringing energy to the Syrian refugees in the Azraq camp in Jordan; just a small selection of some of the amazing CSR projects that are changing lives every day.
When I talk to clients about CSR, I’m quick to state that it isn’t just a PR exercise; it can have tangible positive effects on your business and your stakeholders. According to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, meaningful engagement around CSR is a necessity to retain and inspire millennial talent. By having a robust environmental policy, you can save money. This could include changing the vehicles you use, encouraging employee car shares, including on company business, using local suppliers to reduce your carbon footprint and reducing energy consumption.
Giving back in other ways
Mentoring young people has so many positive outcomes; links with schools and community groups give added publicity and recruitment potential; work experience and internships facilitates the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ and gives young people valuable experience and a sense of purpose. Giving young people a helping hand, in whatever form you can, really does make a difference and will stand you above your competitors.
Similarly, supporting local businesses, through procurement and business advice, is very rewarding. Whether it is a few hours of your time or, perhaps, a preferential rate to get them one rung up on the new business ladder, every experienced business owner can give a little to those starting out or floundering a little in the early days.
Finally, consider the positive impact your CSR has on your potential customers. Evidencing your company ethos could be the differentiator between you and a competitor when it comes to the buying decision. If you’re competing for tender opportunities or applying for awards, it can be crucial here too.
CSR is a must for every company, make it work for yours and be proud of what it helps you to achieve. Don’t forget to talk about your CSR activities, include a dedicated page and news items on your website and promotional literature, and talk about it when communicating with clients and prospects. We can all do something and we can all make a difference to positively impact on the community and, ultimately, our own bottom line.