The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is to lead businesses to incorporate social and environmental concerns in its strategies and play a more responsible role in the world.
Depending on who you talk with, CSR’s definition will vary, but Warren Gorowitz, director of corporate social responsibility for Hunter Industries, says they see sustainability incorporated into CSR.
“Sustainability focuses on three pillars which is often referred to as People, Planet and Profit,” Gorowitz says. “Something that is sustainable is beneficial to us and our communities, it is good for the environment, and it should make economic sense.”
A company’s CSR program should focus on the goals they set around those three pillars of sustainability.
Benefits of CSR
Don’t let the word ‘corporate’ in CSR persuade you into thinking it’s only for large corporations, Gorowitz says there isn’t a business size requirement to create a CSR program.
Some of the benefits of developing CSR include employee recruiting and retention. Employees are often willing to go the extra mile to help their company succeed when there’s a higher good associated with the business.
“Employees want to work for a company that is doing more than just making money,” Gorowitz says. “They are looking to their employer to give back and support the communities where they operate.”
Not only does having a CSR strategy engage employees, but it also allows your company to make a positive impact on the local community. If you execute your CSR well this can also boost your brand’s image and customer loyalty. According to Cone Communications, 87 percent of Americans are more likely to buy a product from a company that aligns their with values.
Implementing a CSR Strategy
When creating your CSR strategy, you have to start with “why.”
“Why are you creating a CSR plan, why is it important to your stakeholders, employees, customers, and the community at large?” Gorowitz says. “A CSR plan shouldn’t be something separate from your business plan in that it should closely align with your organization’s values.”
Tying your CSR strategy to your company’s values and core competencies also helps you avoid creating short-lived attempts at social impact work. Because CSR looks different for each organization, take the time to define what it means your company.
“For some companies, it means being a good corporate citizen and giving back to your community through volunteer work and financially supporting nonprofit organizations,” Gorowitz says. “For other companies, it may mean reducing their impact on the environment by using less resources such as water or energy, and making sure that as much as you can what is being discarded is being recycled instead of sent to the landfill.”
Gorowitz says the next step after determining your why is developing support and buy-in from the top of your organization.
“I suggest forming a group of interested employees which includes at least one executive of the company to identify goals in each of the pillars of sustainability and what you want your organization to accomplish in the short-term and in the long-term,” Gorowitz says.
To ensure buy-in, CSR has to become part of the company culture. It is not just an item on a check list, but rather a journey that requires time and commitment.
“You also don’t want to create false statements around what your company is doing, which is known as green washing,” Gorowitz says.
When setting your goals, Gorowitz stresses you need to recognize the need to start small.
“Identify key non-profit organizations in your community that you want to partner with,” he says. “Work with these organizations to set up potential fundraising opportunities and volunteer events where your employees can work together to make a difference in their communities.”
At the end of each year, evaluate your progress toward your goals.
“It is important to recognize that you may not make progress each year, but you should share where you are with your stakeholders so they understand where the organization is along their CSR journey,” Gorowitz says. “It will inspire other employees to want to be part of the CSR program and it will inspire customers to do business with your company.”
This article was published in the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.