3 Tips To Start A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program In Your Organization

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a hot topic over the last decade and continues to be an excellent avenue for organizations to make their mission, vision, and values actionable no matter what size company you have. Many large multinational corporations have dedicated divisions and members of their executive team directly responsible for CSR activities including the likes of Nike, Starbucks, and BP to name a few. While your business may not be a multinational corporation, there are lessons both good and bad on how to implement a CSR program by looking at the CSR actions of large multinationals.

Tip 1: Start locally. If you are a smaller business say under 250 employees, and you are primarily in a single or couple of locations, what are the social, financial, or environmental issues in your local area? Do any of these problems align with what your business provides for services or products? How can your organization “get involved” with helping local non-profits or schools to drive community involvement? Does your company have a volunteer day, where everyone gets out of the office and supports with volunteer hours? These are easy first entry steps to engage in CSR activities. First, you should run an engagement survey with your employees and see what topics of interest your company should get involved in. CSR is a great way to foster employee engagement where initiatives can be a bottom-up process of inclusion instead of a top-down mandate. A recent Deloitte survey shows 6 in 10 Millennials cite a “sense of purpose,” as part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers. How does your organization make your sense of purpose tangible?

Tip 2: Be genuine with your intentions for engaging in CSR. Don’t use CSR as a marketing or PR ploy, participate in activities for the betterment of the communities you work in because you actually care about their well-being. This is where you can learn from the mistakes of some multinationals who get caught with their pants down by government agencies and human rights groups. Let’s take BP for example; BP has a very comprehensive CSR program, their most recent sustainability report was just released the first week in April 2017 here is a link to a copy.

They have goals that revolve around climate change, safety, support for local communities, human rights, and environmental impact. These are great, and any movement of the needle in the correct direction on any of these topics should serve as a win to communities and BP. However, BP has also notoriously been fined for lack of adhering to many of the regulations around these subjects. Some academics believe many companies are partaking in CSR to simply “greenwash”, this is when a corporation promotes green-based environmental initiatives or images but operates in a way that is damaging to the environment or in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiatives.

Tip 3: What CSR model works for you? There are different models on how to implement CSR programs, one of the most popular is the stakeholder model. The stakeholder model engages company stakeholders both internal and external to participate in the CSR program. This means leveraging your investors, internal staff, members of your supply chain or vendors, and of course your customers. Starbucks does a great job of this by leveraging their supply chain to source from ethically grown coffee producers, provides micro financing to farmers, and facilitates customer involvement for community service volunteer hours. CSR provides your organization the ability to deepen customer relationship through activities that support community involvement without a hidden agenda. I like to say the by-product of CSR is a deposit of social equity into your community.

I thought I would end with an example of a small multinational company’s CSR initiatives to spark some ideas. The company in question is called TPD; they are an HR and Workforce solutions company located in the Pacific Northwest with clients across the US and Canada. They provide HR consulting, talent acquisition, and staffing services. One of the major service centers for this company is Vancouver, BC, where there has been an accelerating homelessness population over the last decade. TPD has decided to incubate a non-profit organization in partnership other social assistance programs in the area to assist the disenfranchised to find work and housing. TPD has over 36 years of workforce solutions experience so leveraging that experience to help this growing population gain access to jobs and shelter is a program that makes sense for them to stand behind. I ask you, what does your company specialize in? Can you leverage your expertise for the benefits of others?

Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on May 3, 2017.

Social Impact Entrepreneur at Midtown West Media, Emerging Technology Advocate, Host of Future Tech Radio Show