Principles of a Successful CSR Program

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CSR programs can take many shapes, from external initiatives that help raise awareness for specific charities or social issues, to internal initiatives focused on building an inclusive workforce or minimizing the carbon footprint of a supply chain. Effective CSR programs do have one thing in common, they create value for both the corporate sponsor and society. To make this happen, it’s critical to use planning inputs drawn from both an organization’s internal business strategies and external factors such as community need and potential partners. Below are five guiding principles that can drive both your company’s success and positive social impact.

Effective CSR programs do have one thing in common, they create value for both the corporate sponsor and society.

  • Consider your existing business strategy first – What’s critical to the success of your company? Is it driving brand awareness to acquire customers? Building a best-in class workforce? Getting over regulatory hurdles? Building strong relationships with your suppliers? Your key business strategies will help inform how the CSR program should add value to your organization such as creating visibility in the marketplace or attracting qualified candidates for your recruiting efforts.

  •  Include your team in planning – One of the primary benefits of a CSR program is an increase in staff buy-in to your corporate mission. It helps employees find meaning in their work and connects them to bigger picture objectives. Including your staff early in the planning process will facilitate ownership in the program and support future engagement like volunteerism and story sharing.

  • Listen to the community – While you’ve been acutely focused on solving problems for your customers, your peers in the community have working to define and address specific needs in the community. Seek their advice. They may work in non-profits, philanthropy, government or education. They know a lot about corporate social initiatives, what’s worked and where the best opportunity for success may be. They can save you hundreds of hours in research or save you from pursuing a strategy that’s doomed to fail.

  • Don’t rebuild the wheel, build partnerships – Whatever your CSR objective may be, there’s most likely a non-profit organization that’s working on the same thing efficiently and effectively. Identify who’s doing the right kind of work in the area you want to focus and join them in a strategic partnership. A good partnership will allow a corporate partner to contribute in a way that plays to their strengths and available resources, whether it’s a contribution of cash, expertise, volunteers or visibility.

  • Make it measurable – Like other aspects of your business, you’ll want to check and adjust your CSR program periodically to maximize its impact. To do this effectively, you’ll need to know if your strategies accomplished what they were designed to do. Performance targets, or what you plan to accomplish, should be a part of your CSR plan and be in place before execution. That way, you’ll be able to set a course to maximize ROI in the next cycle of your CSR planning.

Johnathan Buell