We're often asked - what makes something qualify as corporate social responsibility? How can you tell how much is 'enough', and when does it become hollow? To help make it clearer, we've built a toolkit on what makes a good step change - and the common hiccups to avoid.
Great Corporate Social Responsibility:
Is relevant to the values of the target market.
Is celebrated and communicated. Quiet giving falls under philanthropy; good CSR involves communicating your values and purpose with all stakeholders, and actively evolving your efforts with their input.
Takes employee involvement in decision making.
Might involve collaboration with other businesses. If the task is a big one, joint efforts between teams or friendlier competitors can go a long way.
Is reported on. Glass pockets are important for good CSR, so that no one gets caught out when claiming a project, or overstating their contribution with promotions.
1. Great Corporate Social Responsibility is fundamentally about stakeholder management.
4. Is not one project in isolation, but a mindset of solving a social problem over time.
Ideally this problem will be one that relates to core business over time.
6. Is organised. Unorganised efforts are more likely to become left behind and forgotten in time.
12. Great corporate social responsibility is about operating and producing responsibly.
It’s as much about about the decisions your team makes when nobody is watching as the ones you make that will generate the most publicity.
2. Great Corporate Social Responsibility is doing something you don’t have to do.
Co-regulation of a social space.
5. Great Corporate Social Responsibility is significant in effort.
A guideline we use is around 2% of your annual profit. This isn't a rule - but a number India has made compulsory for all of its corporates. We think it's a great place to start.
8. Great Corporate Social Responsibility doesn't fall for the fallacy of 'we will once we're big enough'.
Good CSR grows with a company; and is often one of the driving forces behind company growth.
8. Each project in your portfolio is easily identifiable.
If someone can picture the result and quantify it in their minds, they will understand the need better. Ie. it's better to focus on helping dolphins rather than focusing on say a small patch of the wide ocean, even if the efforts required to help both are about the same.
3. Great Corporate Social Responsibility is varied, but focuses on a common purpose.
Is varied, but focused around a common purpose. For example, Unilever is focused on children's wellbeing globally, and chooses initiatives that align with improving this.
7. Great Corporate Social Responsibility is is congruent with your business operations, and takes place across the supply chain.
CSR fails when customers can see that you don't recycle, but you support a tree planting initiative, or when you sell a shrimp sandwich to help 'save the oceans'.
12. Centres on making progress, not perfection. Good CSR is continually built upon and improved.