The 16 Principles of Great Corporate Social Responsibility.
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 developed a list of 16 principles for great CSR to come back and refer to. These get edited as we learn more about what makes for effective CSR.
Great CSR is fundamentally about stakeholder management. Shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, community - they’re all important under a robust CSR framework.
To keep it simple, we break great CSR into two broad buckets; internal business practices and community partnerships. Internal business practices cover themes like sustainability, inclusion, cultural engagement, and ethical procurement, whereas community partnerships focus on the work you do over and above day to day business operations.
Organisations that function responsibly recognise an opportunity to use their business as a vehicle for change over the long-term. This limits isolationist thinking and the temptation to give to one project once and be done with it. Instead, make progress over time.
Great corporate social responsibility emerged as a way for corporates to co-regulate the impacts of their industry on a community. Co-regulation above and beyond takes thinking beyond the scope of profit in the short-term, to function in a stronger community in the long-term.
Great Corporate Social Responsibility is organised. Unorganised efforts are more likely to become left behind and forgotten in time. Meet regularly and pursue regular progress with your CSR programme.
Great CSR gets communicated and involves employees in the decision making, whereas philanthropy is typically based on the personal values of a company's leaders, and may not be communicated clearly.
Great CSR 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'.
Great organisations don'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.
Often, management assume their staff know all about what good they’re doing, but rarely is this the case. Your team need to be able to explain what good the company is doing in their own words. They also need to be empowered to help you improve. Involve your staff in a regular meeting, delegate roles, publish internal updates, and keep your programme lead by a team across multiple levels of the organisation.
Great CSR is significant in effort; your investment in CSR should reflect the scale of your organisation. A guideline we use sometimes 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.
Quiet giving falls under philanthropy; good CSR involves communicating your values and purpose with all stakeholders, and actively evolving your efforts with their input. Communication also drives accountability and helps the company benefit from good CSR in return.
Great CSR isn't too proud with the PR machine. If this is meant to be business as usual, communicate your efforts, but don't let the fuss outweigh the contributions the team is actually making.
Great CSR is bold and it takes leadership. It’s too late to claim re-useable straws as a headliner CSR initiative, it’s been a common expectation for almost a decade now. Companies choosing to stand for something before it becomes normal to is where true corporate leadership lies.
Great CSR isn't about passing the responsibility on. Offering your customers a chance to donate to a charity at the cash register isn't great CSR - it's manipulative marketing. Involve your customers by letting them know if they support you, you support what they care about, but don't pass the buck on to their buying decision. This is about the decisions that your organisation can control.
As a minimum, meet the expectations of your industry according to the reporting standards, codes of conduct, industry guidelines and sector-led initiatives already available for social responsibility.
Reporting is a hugely important aspect of great CSR, because it allows stakeholders to be assured that your money is where your mouth is. Too often, this is the aspect of CSR that is forgotten.