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Do the mahi

You know what you’re doing. Together we’ve defined great CSR, convinced your team it’s a good idea, established a core committee for CSR discussions, engaged with other staff, and we’ve dug into the CSR ecosystem in New Zealand.

Now all that’s left to do is make this business as usual - which, in our opinion, can be the hardest part; motivation can run out and things may not go as planned. This section focuses on some core principles we think can help your CSR programme outlast burnout or early enthusiasm fades. We cover:

  1. Instigating and managing effective community partnerships

  2. Principles for making a CSR programme business as usual.

  1. Approaching community partners

    Chances are, some element of your CSR programme is going to involve reaching out to community partners, other organisations, or charities to offer help or to ask for it. This section focuses heavily on what makes a community partnership successful. Click to open this in a new tab.

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 2. Principles for making a CSR programme BAU.

The dream for the Step Changers team is to see CSR become inane - a boring fact of everyday business life. Right now, the main risks to a CSR programme is that they’re reprioritised as a ‘lesser’ objective and they fail to last. These principles help with running the programme so that it’s seen as an everyday business practice by others in your team.

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Take a long-term view 

As the saying goes; good things take time.  That’s why it’s important to keep the big picture in mind and know that the “big wins” will only come with a lot of patience, perseverance, and come as a result of smaller efforts.  We suggest that a CSR programme is ultimately made up several different projects or components that all work to achieve a business’ broader CSR goals. Each project or component should be backed by a focused set of objectives and action points that take into account a business' capabilities and experience with CSR.  For a business with a newer CSR programme, this will mean undertaking smaller projects that can then be used to develop bigger projects.  

Be open to adjustments and criticism

Great CSR allows room for ongoing development and tangible results.  That’s why it’s important to have frank conversations that identify what’s working well and areas of improvement.  This will ensure that stakeholders and the issues that matter to them remain the key focus of a business' CSR programme.   Practically speaking, we would suggest the following:

  • Create mechanisms so that feedback can be collected.  Depending on your business, this could be done through things like including a space for feedback on your CSR programme in employee engagement surveys, holding a lunchtime focus group or opening up the floor in team meetings for discussion. 

  • Set aside time for your CSR team to reflect and discuss what issues the feedback uncovers;

    • What ways is the programme is working?

    • What are the areas of improvement?

    • What things are missing?

    • Where are there areas of growth and development?

    • By identifying these issues, the feedback can then be channeled into making the necessary adjustments to your programme. 

Visibility is important 

It is critical that your CSR programme is kept visible to all your stakeholders throughout the process, not just when you get the big wins.  That way stakeholders to get an accurate picture of what’s going on, and the people who are actually running the programme can feel a sense of recognition.  Whether it be by including a small update in the staff newsletter, announcements at team meetings, social media posts or more substance content that is published and distributed to stakeholders, it is important that any missteps are acknowledged and the wins, big and small, are celebrated.

Lead from the top 

It is important that a business' leaders are seen to be engaged with the CSR programme.  While it may not be possible to have every manager or boss on a CSR team, it is important that there is some form of representation and acknowledgement of the programme’s existence from that senior level.  That way, the work is given the credibility it deserves. This may be done directly through having a manager act as a member of a CSR team, and through other means such as active participation in team-wide CSR activities or reporting back to employees on any discussions leaders have had about a business' CSR programme. 

Look after your team 

CSR is at its core, driven by the people within the business itself.  It is important that they are well looked after by ensuring they have the correct resources and support to run the CSR programme.  This may be done through:

  • ensuring that the team has a place to meet

  • opportunities for the team itself to give feedback

  • recognition of their work

It may also be worthwhile considering whether it is appropriate to consider how the team’s CSR work sits alongside their other work responsibilities, and whether any adjustments or compensation is necessary, such as time in lieu or reduced responsibilities during periods where a CSR programme may be demand a greater time commitment. 

It is also essential that a team-wide culture is created where everyone is engaged with the work and participation in team-wide CSR activities are encouraged.  Not only will this validate the efforts of those who drive the CSR programme, but it will also ensure that the team is supportive when the membership of the CSR group changes.  

One final section from us, this time on reporting and accountability as it applies to your CSR programme. Get it!