What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is quite a broad concept; it can take many forms depending on the business.  At Step Changers, we’re committed not only to delivering great CSR advice but also helping the businesses we support develop a dynamic and truly mindful CSR programme.  To help businesses get started, we've put together some pointers as to what makes a good step change.

CSR comes in all shapes and sizes, and it all has to be reported on. Broadly speaking, we look at CSR with a lens of assessing a company’s commitment to their stakeholders, both internal and external. In this sense, CSR concerns two main factors; internal business practices and community partnerships.

Internal Business Practices - concerning diversity, accessibility, sustainability, cultural engagement, and ethical procurement

Community Partnerships - concerning the role the business plays in solving external, societal problems.

As a rule of thumb, we believe most businesses should have a project or policy that aims to actively improve outcomes in each of these areas. We discuss more on what constitutes good internal business practices and community partnerships in the next section, but you can jump ahead to it here. As for the basics though, we believe that:

  1. Any CSR practices and projects that are implemented should be easily identifiable and congruent with the business’s operations, supply chains and target audience.

  2. These practices and projects involve meaningful contributions that are undertaken with a view to making a positive impact, whether that be within the community, industry or at a broader societal or environmental level, rather than a token charitable gesture to improve the business’s public profile.

  3. The business’s CSR practices are publicly available to employees, shareholders and the community. Honest and clear reporting mechanisms on CSR practices help stakeholders accurately assess the company’s contributions.

  4. Your programme should feel significant to your team and customers. One guideline for this is the 2% rule, whereby 2% of a business’s annual profits are invested into its CSR programme. This doesn’t have to be an exact science, but a guideline for making sure there is some substance in your programme.

  5. Ideally, there will be broad scope to allow for employee participation and leadership with visible support and participation in the CSR programme from the leadership.