Corporate social responsibility: what is it and how to do it properly

With greater choice at their fingertips, consumers are looking beyond just a physical product or service when making a purchase decision. They want to know they are making the right ethical choice, too. So we look into the benefits of a well-thought out Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan and the best way to go about it implementing one.

Why invest in CSR?

The facts are compelling. When a company supports a social or environmental issue, 92% of people report having a more positive image of the company. And if you’re looking to attract the next generation of consumers, you’ll need CSR as 94% of Gen Z (86% general population) believe companies should help address social and environmental issues.

1. Make your brand more relatable

Having a CSR strategy is the most effective way to communicate what your brand stands for. Consumers want to do their part to help others and are looking to spend their money with brands that have ethical, environmental and social values that match their own. If your brand can mirror the values of your target market then you’re developing positive brand associations that can led to a purchase. Your CSR can make all the difference with 89% of consumers likely to switch to a brand associated with a good cause, given similar price and quality. It can not only help with that initial purchase, but also in developing continued brand loyalty.

2. You’re interested in more than profits

Good CSR demonstrates to both customers and the media that you’re an organisation that takes an interest in wider charitable issues that have no direct impact on profit margins. It shows that you’re not just selling to the community, you’re part of it. When done right, your CSR will help you develop a closer relationship with the community, but more than that, you’ll be doing using your part to make a positive change in the world.

3. A better place to work

People want their jobs to have purpose. If their role in your business is contributing to the betterment of society, in any small way, then employee morale, job satisfaction and productivity will follow. It can even help attract better quality candidates to any job openings.

Types of CSR to consider

CSR can come in many shapes and size. From a community level sponsorship to a national or global initiative, CSR is how you can take a stand for what you believe in.

1. Environmental

This is when a business looks at the damage we are doing to the environment and puts practices in place to address them. Think: removing plastic bags from shops, reducing carbon emissions or choosing to use only sustainable products. What negative effects does your business have on the environment and how can you negate them?

2. Charitable

Whether it’s creating their own or supporting one that aligns with their values, businesses are a major contributor to charity organisations around the world. What hardships have you experienced or seen in your community and how can your business help?

3. Community

Getting involved in the local (or global) community – from sponsoring a sports team to providing land for a community garden – is a great way to improve your CSR. Is there a community group that could use your help? What business assets do you have that could benefit others?

How to do it right

If you’ve chosen to put a CSR plan in place, it’s important to get it right from the start or you risk doing more harm than good

1. It can’t be tokenistic

CSR isn’t just another box that needs ticking. If you’re not committed or genuine, consumers will see right through it.

2. Don’t expect a ROI

You can’t employ CSR expecting anything in return. Sure, positive PR or improved store traffic is great, but should always be seen as a bonus, not the goal. The moment it even looks like you’re doing CSR for financial gain, consumers will shy away.

3. Be transparent

This is not a place to be vague. If you say a percentage of profits will go to charity, make sure you’re telling your customers how much and to who. Transparency breeds trust. It’s why 53% of Australian businesses think sustainability reporting should be mandatory for all organisations of a certain size.

4. Be a leader

CSR isn’t really an option. To stand out, you need to go above and beyond. Don’t just follow you

r competitors. Be proactive, be a leader – create initiatives that are unique and thoughtful.

5. Find your purpose

Take a deep dive into your business and find the environmental, ethical or social issue that aligns best to your business. Focussing on one purpose makes it easier for customers to know what you stand for.

6. Lead by example

It’s one thing to donate to a charity, but it’s another for you and your staff to get involved in some way. Walking-the-walk shows that your CSR isn’t just window dressing, but an integral part of your brand.

7. Communicate well

There’s a fine line between having CSR recognised by potential customers and a brand seen as simply trying to use an issue for their own gain. Ensuring you have a well-considered CSR communication plan in place is essential of its success.

Looking to make corporate social responsibility part of your business plan? Blade Consultancy can help your company capture, measure, optimise and communicate its CSR and improve the perception of your brand.

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