How’s Your Corporate Social Responsibility? Easy Ways to Get Started
As an entrepreneur, one of the most inspiring things about running a business is the opportunity to get involved with important causes in your community.
It’s unfortunate that this activity is known by the rather dull term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, or the equally dreary ‘CSR’. However, terminology aside, CSR is an exciting opportunity to influence positive change in your business, and for the environment in which you operate.
Here, we dive deeper into the world of CSR and explain why you should, too.
What is CSR?
Think of it as being a good citizen. Generally speaking, CSR is all about your company’s ethical responsibilities; it’s your impact on society, and what you do for society.
“It is defined as the responsibility of an organisation for the impacts of its decisions on society and the environment above and beyond its legal obligations, through transparent and ethical behaviour” - Gov.uk
Those responsibilities can be environmental, social, economic, or a little of everything. Ultimately, it’s about your commitment to driving down any negative impacts of your business (such as your carbon footprint), and creating positive change through your business.
Any business can get involved in CSR. The terminology may be misleading - just because it refers to “corporate” responsibility doesn’t mean it’s restricted to large companies.
A good example of implementing CSR is to support or partner with a local charity. Or you could consider changing the way you source supplies or raw materials to become more environmentally friendly.
There are no hard and fast rules about what you can or should do. What’s important is choosing a direction that you genuinely believe in - then it’s up to you, as a company, to decide the way forward.
Why Is It Important?
The main benefit is obvious. It’s about reducing your negative impact while simultaneously offering support to others.
Of course, being socially conscious is also beneficial to your company from a publicity perspective. CSR can motivate your employees and also improve your company image - after all, what people think of your business is important to your success.
Customers often warm to companies that take their environmental or social concerns seriously; it can help them feel like they are ‘giving back’ by investing in your organisation.
Clarity and consistency are incredibly important. Spontaneously donating to charity isn’t a CSR programme - it needs to be thought out, planned, and implemented with care.
Here are some steps to get started:
- Set clear goals for what you hope to achieve. Bring in key members of your team and consider polling your customers to find out what’s important to them.
- Identify a direction that resonates with your team and your employees. Assign roles to members of your team, but be careful not to overstretch your resources. Remember, they have day jobs too!
- Understand what problems you are trying to solve. Consider partnering with other organisations or non-profit groups rather than tackling the issues alone. This will provide additional resources as well as expert guidance.
- Consider how you will measure the progress and success of your actions. Set out a roadmap with clear guidelines on how to reach each target and communicate regularly to offer support to each other.
- Publicise your efforts. It’s important for others to know what you are doing, so remember to communicate externally to keep your customers (and the outside world) up to date with your work.
What Can You Do?
UBC has a varied CSR programme that ranges from investment in the local economy - such as sourcing office supplies from local, independent companies rather than national chains - to charitable work.
Each year, UBC nominates a charity and together, the entire company focuses the majority of fundraising activities on this charity. In 2019, all UBC centres were dedicated to fundraising for mental health charity, Mind, and raised £5,768.15 - well above UBC’s original target of £4,000.
In 2020 UBC is supporting The Rainbow Trust, a nationwide charity that supports families who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. UBC teams across the country are now implementing a variety of fundraising events and activities on behalf of The Rainbow Trust.
In addition, and in keeping with UBC’s mission to support local causes, each business centre team is also free to support a charity in their area. For example in Birchwood, the team provides free office space to a local Warrington-based charity, Creating Adventures.
What else can you do?
Consider ways to reduce your company’s environmental impact. For instance, cut down your paper usage, switch to sensor lighting, set up a car-sharing scheme, and install bike racks to encourage cycling to work.
You could also offer remote or flexible work to reduce carbon emissions through commuting.
In addition to charitable fundraising, volunteering can have an incredibly positive impact on your local community. The fact that you are giving away not just financial resources, but also your time and that of your team, speaks volumes about your company’s sincerity.
Volunteering is also a great way for your team to get more involved with your CSR programme.
Remember, when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, there are no hard and fast rules about what you should do. The important part is doing something that reflects your values and that provides a common objective that your team, and your customers, can wholeheartedly support.