Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is of growing importance within the world of business; it enhances organisations’ reputations and their bottom lines. Meanwhile, visibly caring for personable causes supports employee engagement, amongst an endless pool of many other indisputable benefits. Quite simply, for a business to flourish it must prioritise its own CSR efforts. Furthermore, it needs to do so now; after a challenging year ensued by the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has become increasingly holistic and the public are favouring companies who look and think beyond themselves.
As we slowly return to some semblance of normality and businesses navigate their post-pandemic recovery, we are venturing into a critical period of internal restructuring and development. As such, now is a pivotal time for businesses to re-evaluate their CSR strategies, including what they’re doing well, what they could be doing better and which causes require more financial support from trusted organisations than ever before. Whilst this might not feel like an immediate priority as we recover from an unprecedented global pandemic, CSR isn’t something that can go amiss. For a business to thrive in this new world, it must be seen to care.
The incredible power of CSR strategies
Trevor Elliott MBE is the Managing Director of Kennedy Elliott, an organisation which provides much needed care and accommodation to vulnerable young people between the ages of 11 and 25 who’ve faced extreme hardship and trauma. He is also the Founder of Lambeth Action for Youth, an organisational group offering a range of services for vulnerable children. As such, Trevor is uniquely familiar with the incredible power of businesses’ CSR strategies; his organisations heavily rely on corporate support, with their help allowing Kennedy Elliott and Lambeth Action for Youth to help even more children in need. Similarly, Trevor has watched the benefits of meaningful CSR strategies unfold for businesses themselves, as this often proves to be an undeniable asset year-round.
To help you understand the importance of re-evaluating your CSR strategy before the year ends, Trevor is highlighting a range of profit-propelling benefits that lie behind these projects, alongside invaluable pieces of advice for forward-thinking businesses who are hoping to do more.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) improves your public image
‘In my experience, corporate social responsibility efforts improve a business’ public image immensely. They show that you care for your community, not just your bottom line, and that you’re willing to invest in important causes. These are things the public respond to; we now live in a conscious society whereby doing good and operating holistically are criteria clients prioritise. As a business, this can’t be overlooked. Successful CSR efforts can transform your public image, making you more reputable and trusted whilst highlighting your core values.’
Successful strategies strengthen employee engagement
‘Not only do CSR strategies make the public more invested in your business, they also strengthen your employee engagement rates internally. By listening to the causes your employees care about and supporting associated charities and groups, you show that you respect and listen to their requests, values and priorities. If an employee does feel appreciated, they will naturally become more committed to their results and your business in turn.’
Thinking outside of the box pays dividends
‘With CSR strategies it’s important to think outside of the box and be creative. For example, think about the causes your employees care about most and consider meaningful ways by which you can support them. Whilst donating money is invaluable, could you become a long-term sponsor or partner? Could you visit people in need or invest in some kind of education service? Perhaps you could host an event to raise invaluable awareness? At Kennedy Elliott we’re looking for businesses who are willing to support us on a long-term basis because we feel these consistent relationships are the most genuine and beneficial for both parties. If a collaboration is creative, purposeful and ongoing, it says a lot more about the business’ sincerity.’
It allows you to engage with younger audiences
‘According to recent research, 40% of young people think purpose/impact is one of the most important criteria when considering a career opportunity. Meanwhile, it’s been found that 55% of employees would choose to work for a socially responsible company, even if this necessitates a lower salary. Clearly, younger generations are highly invested in social causes and the values behind a business; therefore, for businesses to attract the best candidates and reach younger audiences in a positive way, they need to focus on social responsibility.’
‘One of the most important things to remember when creating a corporate social responsibility strategy is that thinking local is of paramount importance. Supporting a cause that’s both close to your business’ heart and where you’re based shows you’re engaged with the nearby community, thereby positioning your business as a meaningful contributor to the area. In doing so, you’ll enhance your reputation, appearing more socially aware.’
Don’t only focus on your short-term goals
‘From what I’ve seen, a common mistake when it comes to CSR strategies is businesses only focusing on their short-term goals. Most of the time, they’re hoping to quickly and drastically improve their reputations. However, it’s important to think about the long-term outcomes of anything you put into place; you don’t want your CSR efforts to be fleeting. If they are, their results will be too. Instead, create a plan that allows you to continue supporting an important cause long into the future, think about how you can continue to involve your employees over coming months and put plans in place to refresh your efforts every 6 months. As the world’s always changing, your CSR projects should be too.’
Remember, CSR is not just a publicity stunt
‘Whilst CSR is an invaluable public relations tool, you must remember that it’s not just a publicity stunt. For a CSR project to be successful it must be sincere; people need to be able to see that you truly care and that you’re not just giving money away to ‘look good’. Therefore, find a cause you’re truly passionate about, share this news in a compelling, thought-provoking way and make sure everyone in your business is somehow engaged with the project; that way, it’ll become collaborative, responsive and something that everyone in your team truly cares about.’
Now is a critical time for businesses to re-evaluate their CSR strategies and do better. Thankfully, that needn’t be difficult; by choosing a cause you really care about, creatively and consistently supporting them, engaging your employees and thinking long-term you can oversee projects that’ll undoubtedly enrich your business’ reputation and profits – all through doing good for the wider world.