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Corporate Social Responsibility – putting your money where your business mouth is

2020 has so far been a heck of a year! With the response of corporations to the COVID19 pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s had me reflecting on Corporate Social Responsibly; what it is, why it matters, and how to do it right.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate Social Responsibility is concerned with the sustainability of an organisation over the long term. At its core, corporate responsibility seeks to add value to an organisation’s activities by ensuring they have a positive impact on society, the environment and the economy. The traditional model of Corporate Responsibility includes the workplace, marketplace, community and environment.

Each business will have a different mix of how, where and why it showcases CSR, just as each person has their own motivations for what they stand up for or against. Corporate Responsibility is about reflecting the principles of the people behind it, and not sitting on the fence. Brands that have a strong voice, and support causes they are passionate about are rewarded or punished depending on the stand they take, or in some instances, don’t take. As the old saying goes, if you’re trying to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. Your business needs to do more than just quality products with good service – it needs a WHY that people see and relate to.

Why does Corporate Social Responsibility matter?

A 2017 Cone Communications CSR study stated, “Although CSR will always be grounded in business operations—from water conservation to supply chain transparency—recently, the stakes have gotten a lot higher. Companies must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for.”

The study found the importance of companies’ involvement in three key CSR areas:

Despite these being American statistics, it’s still very relevant for Australian consumers.

How to do it right (and wrong).

Covid19 gave us so many examples of companies suddenly trying to look like they care:

Major corporations around the world updated their advertising to reflect that the world is going through some unprecedented times and that makes people nervous and unsure. Any economist will tell you that uncertainty kills a market; whether it’s political, economic, societal or just the weather – uncertainty = people not spending. Many companies tried combatting by changing their advertising to indicate that they are caring and supportive, Unfortunately, it came across as hollow and off-putting with no real action behind it.

Many, many organisations put out special announcements, mostly in the forms of emails, to reassure people that they were aware and taking action internally about the virus. I’m sure we weren’t the only one suddenly finding our inbox’s flooded with updates from Mailchimp, BCF, Bra’s n Things, Petstock, Energex and every other company assuring us that they were ok. How annoying and off putting was it??

If all you are doing is adding to the noise, just don’t. If you have an announcement of real change and impact – go for it! Natural disasters (like covid19) provide an opportunity for companies to make some noise in a safe way. No one is For or Against a pandemic (at least mostly – looking at you people protesting for hair cuts in America) so companies are able to make a statement of how they are helping and changing their business to support without risking backlash.

Some fantastic examples include:

Young Henrys are a Sydney based brewery who saw the need for Hand Sanitiser in the midst of the crisis and who’s founders (normally in the office) jumped back into the brewery to meet the need.

After looking up WHO guidelines for how to make sanitiser, production started in late March 2020 and now the brewery is supplying the product to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer centre at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the charity Do Good and the general public.

Young Henrys director Richard Adamson said, “We’ll be making a hand sanitiser with Do Good that they can sell. Their charity’s around supporting women that are victims of domestic violence, which I think is important. We’re still selling a fair bit of packaged beer, so what we’re doing is not so much about saving the business. It’s really about getting some jobs for our staff, and also just heeding the call”

In a post highlighting the handiwork of an employee, LEGO shares how an artist got stuck in Wuhan, China, while visiting family. They channelled that frustration by finding a creative way to help. In amplifying the employee’s story, LEGO also showed how the company values creativity, adaptability, and passion.

Highlight the actions of your staff and allow them autonomy. This can lead to a new creativity in your company’s voice. Sharing genuine stories is a perfect way to promote both your staff’s morale and develop company identity.

Dozens of companies offered healthcare workers freebies or discounts to recognise the work they did, and continue to do, during the pandemic:

Too many more to list have offered support for healthcare workers. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, jumping on a cause and supporting where you can is always relevant.

Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t just for crises – like a puppy, it’s for life. Giving thought to what you’re company believes and stands for is a long, ongoing conversation that needs to happen with management, staff, customers and shareholders to ensure you are behaving in a sustainable and ethical manner.

As an example, we love Bacardi’s 2018 CSR plan:

It highlights 5 key areas it want’s to improve and states tangible, practical ways to achieve their goals. Being able to clearly communicate the core ethics and focuses of the company gives it great global social responsibility credability!

Any action taken by a large, multinational company has huge rippling effects on the world we all share and corporations are starting to recognise and take responsibility for that.

How to develop your Corporate Social Responsibility Plan

CSR’s tend to cover four key areas:

1. Philanthropy

Gifting as a company has many benefits. All non-for-profit organisations love to receive money, you can directly support the causes you care about and it’s often tax deductible. That’s a lot of wins! Pick one or two causes or social issues you care about personally and make regular donations. This is a great start to developing a CSR business mindset. Let your employees and shareholders know what you are doing and importantly WHY you are doing it. This is not a marketing opportunity, it is a genuine movement to bettering your community.


2. Environmental Conservation

Female hand holding sprout wilde pine tree in nature green forest. Earth Day save environment

A great legacy for your business is to leave a better world for future generations. More and more people are looking for sustainable, socially aware and responsible businesses in their practices. Be on the forefront of these movements before the government forces you to change practices (Remember straws and plastic bags?).

It gives you credibility in the eyes of consumers and saves time and money with researching best choices. This is better than scrambling when legislations suddenly enforces a change of practices. Look at your sourcing, production, transporting and waste systems and see how you can shift them to more sustainable methods. There may even be business opportunities there you hadn’t realised!


3. Diversity and Labor Practices

United Colleagues Holding Hands Sitting At Desk In Office, Top-View

Diverse hiring practices has proved time and time again to benefit the company, the community and greater population. The government has many assistance programs promoting and easing the hire of people with disabilities or marginalised backgrounds. It’s never been easier or more beneficial to diversify your workforce. Besides giving the usually overlooked a chance, other motivators behind this CSR staple are better staff morale, exposure to new consumer groups, innovative ideas and increased reputation. See this article for further benefits.


4. Volunteering

A company involved (at all levels) in a volunteering effort has so many positives, it’s hard to list them all. According to a report by City Philanthropy, 53% of under-35’s want to volunteer more. This figure increases to 60% amongst 18-24 year-olds. Aside from just being a ‘good thing to do’, companies that offer paid time-off for volunteering statistically

  • attract and retain top talent,
  • boost productivity,
  • instil a sense of purpose and meaning in employees
  • go some way to improving the employee engagement challenge.

Help the community in tangible ways and strengthen company culture values like staff retention, team connectedness, brand reputation and customer relationships. Ask your team for recommendations of causes they really care about for extra credit in this area.

Are you still wondering how to foster this incredible value in your business? Let us know your Corporate Social Responsibility plan – we’d love to hear about it!