Many business owners are realizing the importance of having a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, with studies showing 75% of Americans wanting companies to take the lead on social and environmental issues. This trend is also appearing more frequently in the construction industry.
However, putting together an effective program is often put on the back burner, not because of time restraints, but often managers don’t know where to start, how to do it, and even which cause to support.
Having a “giving-back” culture can bring enormous benefits to your organization. In fact, it could mean the difference between winning a contract or being rejected. So, the quicker you set up your CSR program the better. Let’s look at the benefits you could enjoy from becoming a new corporate citizenship company.
Potentially More Business
According to a survey by Cone Communications, 87% of respondents are willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter. Even more astonishing is that 75% will refuse to buy from a company if they learn it supports an issue contrary to their own beliefs. Some organizations, for example, will only do business with those who work in line with their goals, such as using more sustainable materials or generating less pollution. You may not even know it, but you could be losing business as a result of your working practices.
Improves Company Image
There’s no doubt that having a robust CSR program is good for your brand. Being seen as a notable socially responsible company can make you stand out from the crowd and raise your profile and reputation. It also equates to improving customer loyalty and contributing directly to your bottom line, said Kent State University marketing professor Christopher Groening, who has been studying how customer satisfaction and corporate social responsibility affect firm value.
Better for Recruitment
As Millennials and Generation Z become a larger part of the workforce, they are looking to work for companies that are contributing to the community or having less of an impact on the environment. Fifty-one percent of the up-and-coming workforce won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments, according to research by Cone Communications. Furthermore, having a CSR program helps with retaining staff, as a majority of employees are more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to important issues, according to human resources advisory firm Korn Ferry.
Better Employee Engagement & Profitability
In addition to employees being more loyal to a company that has a good CSR program, it can also boost productivity. Staff has been shown to be more engaged and perform better when they feel good about a company’s community involvement, especially when the company celebrates these efforts and achievements with them.
Deciding on a strategy is obviously the first step in implementation. Should you focus on your own passions and beliefs, specific community needs, your industry or the global picture? Research shows that for a CSR initiative to be a true success, it should be something that connects or aligns with your business or the local community you are in.
The following are a few things to consider for your CSR strategy.
- Recognize what matters to your customers, partners and staff. Consulting your employees on your cause and strategy is an important move, as it gives them a sense of ownership and ensures their future support and participation. Turning employees and partners into champions of your cause are essential to the longevity of the program. Remember what’s important to your customers and suppliers, too. For example, after speaking to construction clients about the lack of skills causing recruitment problems, we are now offering a $10,000 scholarship to students choosing to attend trade schools.
- Find ways to give back.
- Monetary giving and philanthropy—Many organizations will choose to donate a certain amount of money a year to charity. It may also involve offering services or products free of charge.
- Reducing carbon footprint—Companies of all sizes are now vowing to work in better ways to protect the environment. This can take on many different forms, such as reducing greenhouse gases, using less plastic or going paperless. Always ensure your goals are realistic and attainable.
- Volunteering—Serving in the community goes a long way to showing your commitment to corporate social responsibility. But it doesn’t have to mean spending your free time away from family on a weekend. You don’t want to put any added pressure on your staff. Management and employees can be allocated paid time off (PTO) for committing to helping with local projects or events, for example.
- Keep it going. Don’t let your program sizzle out by doing a one-off event or not gaining employee support with an unrelated cause and a single donation. A successful CSR program needs to be well planned and sustainable. If providing paid volunteer time is feasible, then make sure your donations are consistent and encourage employee giving. You may consider setting up an internal team to be in charge of the fundraising efforts and events. Some companies even employ a chief sustainability officer to lead initiatives. Embrace it as a long-term commitment. Another way to keep it going is to package all your events, related or not, under one umbrella as a cohesive program.
- Shout about it. Yes, blowing your own trumpet is a must when it comes to being a corporate citizenship company. And why not? Use it on company literature, write about it on your website and even let the media know what you’re up to—it’s all a positive message and can even create good publicity. But don’t do it with the expectations that someone owes you something or that new business is guaranteed. Do it to find other like-minded people to explore the cause with you. When you shout about it, make the cause the focus of the shout and not you or your activities.
As you can see, there are many aspects to consider when implementing a strong CSR program. With CSR influencing how employees, customers, and stakeholders view your business, it is a move in the right direction. By choosing the right initiatives, having a solid plan and ensuring enthusiasm for your goals continue, you will certainly reap the benefits in the long run. Good luck!