Why You Should Care About Corporate Social Responsibility

Ever since the first Pret A Manger shop opened, the brand has given its leftover food to homeless shelters. Now one of the UK’s largest coffee shop chains, these daily leftovers translate to over 3 million meals a year, and an army of voluntary distributors. This is just one example of corporate social responsibility, and it’s one many brands should try to follow.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is all about companies taking accountability for their business impact. They usually do this by delivering social, environmental or economical benefits to their communities.

CSR can have a big impact on a business’s community, but it can also bolster a brand’s reputation, think of Sainsbury’s yearly support of Comic Relief or Vaseline’s recent Healing Project. A survey of UK consumers found that 88% of Brits would buy from a brand which engaged in activities that helped better society.

But CSR programs aren’t just for giant companies like Sainsbury’s. Any business can benefit from CSR. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What is corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is your business’s way of making a positive impact on society, and you have the opportunity to make a difference in numerous ways.

The types of CSR programs that businesses create usually fall into a few categories:

Community involvement

Some companies choose to get involved with the community in an effort to promote corporate social responsibility. This includes partnering with non-profit organisations, schools or shelters to create some kind of impact.

Environmental sustainability

Others focus on their environmental footprint and create sustainability initiatives that promote going green.

Businesses may use online invoices when billing their customers for services because it provides an easy form of payment that is not only efficient, but can also save you money. Others may switch to digital receipts as a way to reduce paper consumption. These are simple changes that can decrease your operational costs and support sustainability.

Political support

While this might not be the way to go for all businesses, a growing number of companies are vocalising their beliefs and publicly supporting political issues. Some are even taking action when they feel like political issues conflict with the beliefs of their companies.

Pro Bono Work

Other companies hone in on their expertise to create impact. Kenco, a coffee company, puts their knowledge of coffee production to work by saving young people from the lure of gang culture in their Coffee Vs Gangs project.

What is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?

While these are all noble causes, it can be hard for small businesses to match these global campaigns. And when you are just one branch of a small brand, it can be difficult to prioritise social efforts among their never-ending list of business responsibilities. So why should you make the effort to prioritise your commitment to CSR?

Here are some benefits of corporate social responsibility:
  • It can have a positive impact in the community.
    You are a member of your community, as are your employees. Improving your community creates a better quality of life for you and your employees, and your customers. (And happier customers are always better for business.)
  • It can improve reputation and brand image and expand your overall customer network.
  • It can create consumer loyalty.
    Consumers are more inclined to buy from brands that align similarly with their social or political values. A corporate social responsibility program can entice a customer to try your business, and it’s a great way to create loyalty.
  • It can impact the bottom line.
    Improved reputation and loyalty can lead to better revenue. But, your CSR efforts can also save you money by driving efficiency in your business operations.
  • It can empower your employees.
    Think about a time when you really believed in something you were doing. You were more inspired, more engaged, more empowered. When you communicate your business’s values through CSR programs, you’re bound to see an effect on your employees, as well as in your community.

4 examples of CSR policies in action.

Below are five examples of corporate social responsibility implemented by notable companies.

  • The Body Shop has been a leading name when it comes to charitable, socially-minded brands. Originally founded in 1976, its founder, Anita Roddick was made a Dame for her charitable efforts. The brand continues her work, being opposed to animal testing and fully supports fair trade products. It’s latest commitment, coined as “Enrich Not Exploit” aims to improve the brand’s charitable, social and environmental efforts even further by 2020, including improving their community trade programme, regenerating 75 million square metres of natural habitat and powering all their shops with renewable or carbon balanced energy.

  • Greggs, one of the nation’s favourite providers of steak bakes, sausage rolls and gingerbread men, has a CSR policy in place that works in the local communities of each branch. Originally established in 1999, the ‘Greggs Breakfast Club’ makes sure primary school children are provided with a healthy and nutritious breakfast to enable their concentration and success through the school term. Over 5 million breakfasts have been served since its conception, with almost 500 clubs operating nationwide.

  • Dove has long aligned itself with ‘the everyday woman’ in shunning unrealistic images of female beauty in their advertising, instead promoting ‘real beauty’. This is currently put to practise in its “Self Esteem Project” which builds on their initial aim - to stop young women from falling victims to the unrealistic standards of beauty much of industry sets- to make a programme that helps parents, teachers and youth leaders ensure all young people are brought up with their confidence unchallenged. From guides to spotting bullying to advice on how to embrace a diverse cultural background, Dove’s mission is to make society better by making sure its next generation is raised with dignity and compassion.

  • Innocent, innovators of juices and smoothies, were one of the pioneers of healthy, cleaner eating in the UK, producing drinks that were pure fruit and kiddy-friendly, inspiring a healthier lifestyle for the whole family. They are also the force behind The Big Knit, a yearly campaign where they ask the nation to knit hats for their little bottles. For every stylishly-adorned smoothie or juice purchased, Innocent donated to Age UK, helping to combat loneliness among elderly people by funding community events.

These are prime examples of the tremendous efforts companies put into corporate social responsibility, but your CSR program doesn’t have to be the same size or scale as The Body Shop or Sainsbury’s.

How to create a CSR policy for your business.

Implementing a CSR program can actually be easier than you think.

Here are seven elements your program should have:

1. A business-based purpose

The best CSR programs are ones that can easily relate back to your business. Companies like Pret execute this flawlessly and you can too by brainstorming ideas based on your business goals and company offerings.

2. Concentrated efforts

Instead of trying to support a large number of causes with different initiatives, select a defined focus for your corporate social responsibility program. This can help you define and develop your brand.

3. A measurable impact

Taking on too much in your CSR program can lead to failed promises and false expectations, which can be bad for your brand image. When deciding on your CSR policy, think about the noticeable changes you want to get out of your program.

4. Employee participation

Your employees are a major factor to the success of your CSR program, meaning their support and participation is crucial. Be sure to brainstorm your approach with them, so you’re sure to settle on something you can all be passionate about.

5. Customer relevancy

Your customers’ values are also significant when determining a corporate social responsibility program, so think about what causes are important to them. Innocent’s campaign, for example, directly tied their customers to the cause – if they bought a smoothie, a donation would be made. This placed the power in the customer’s hands when they were selecting a brand in the juice aisle.

6. Shareable stories

It’s important to share your success and impact in order to build awareness and grow your CSR program. Through email and social media efforts, you can promote your CSR project and highlight its success to your current customers. To reach a larger audience, get in touch with local media teams to showcase your work. These tactics can get your brand recognised for your CSR efforts and help grow the program.

7. Honesty and transparency

Above all, you want to create a CSR program that is transparent with your employees and customers. Select something meaningful that can make an honest impact in the community.

These elements can help you craft a corporate social responsibility policy that serves your company’s purpose and goals.