Categories: Entrepreneurship

Corporate Social Responsibility: What It Means And How It Impacts Your Startup

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the practice of increasing the good that a business does in various communities and decreasing the harm it does. So, yeah, if you’re unfamiliar with this buzz word in business circles, it’s time to educate yourself on how it can impact a business — which is why we’re here!

A 2017 study on consumers’ reaction to CSR initiatives found that more than 87 percent would buy a product that supports issues they support. The study also found that more than 75 percent would boycott companies that support an issue in which consumers oppose.

Companies that practice corporate social responsibility not only help their communities, and sometimes the world, they also help themselves by attracting more committed workers and more loyal customers.

Adding three different facets of CSR to business operations will help a company get the maximum benefit for the business by “doing well while doing good.”

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What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

When you run a business, you obviously know that you have responsibilities to your customers, your employees, your vendors and suppliers and your shareholders or investors.

But do you have a responsibility to your community?

More and more businesses of all sizes believe so, and are taking steps to do more good and less harm in their communities. Your community can include where you do business locally, your state, your country or other countries where you make or sell your product.

Doing More Good. Doing more good in your community can include sponsoring a charity, such as a youth sports league or animal shelter. It can include offering scholarships to your employee’s children, helping workers pay off student loans or the general public. It can include donating money or products during an emergency.

Doing Less Harm. Doing less harm in your community often refers to decreasing your impact on the environment. This can include using greener products to make your product or keep your office clean. It can include ride-sharing or mass-transit programs to reduce the number of employees by car to work. It can include recycling in your office.

Positive Public Relations

The simplest definition of public relations is “Doing good and telling about it.”

When you practice corporate social responsibility, don’t be shy about announcing it. Alert local, regional, national and trade media. Include your CRS activities on your website. Putting a CSR notice (e.g., “This product made from recycled paper.” or “A portion of your purchase is donated to XYZ charity.”) can help increase sales and customer loyalty.

Promoting that you’re a caring company can also improve the quality of employees you attract and retain.

Three Ways To Implement CSR

No. 1: Internal CSR. Add CSR to your internal operations first. Start an office recycling program. Look at ways to reduce your energy and water costs. Offer to match employee charitable donations when they give to their favorite organizations. Add wellness and office safety programs. Conduct a site safety and security audit. Recognize the charitable activities of employees.

No. 2: External Operations. Think about how you can decrease your carbon footprint when making and selling your product.

  • Use recycled materials in your product
  • Source from green vendors and suppliers
  • Donate money or products based on consumer purchases
  • Purchase alternative fuel company cars and delivery trucks
  • Add solar power to your buildings

Ask if your employees would be willing to donate their time to a charitable activity. This might include working the parking area of a non-profit event, cleaning up a local stream or creek, or doing a litter pickup at a park or trail. Take a look at the many ways a company like outdoor apparel and gear seller Patagonia practices CSR.

No. 3: Cause Marketing. Getting directly involved with one or more charities is a very effective way to be a good corporate citizen while driving higher sales and increasing customer loyalty.

You can donate a percentage of your sales to a particular charity or donate a set amount per sale (e.g., 5 cents per sale). You can track this using coupons or codes.

You can provide volunteer employees for their events to work registration desks, parking areas or food stands. You can pay a set fee to become the official product or service of a charity. If you donate your services (i.e. time), you can’t write that off, but you still get the PR benefit.

Get the maximum benefit from working with a charity by putting their logo on your website, product packaging and sales materials. Try to get access to their mailing list or have the charity send a direct mail piece on your behalf. Make sure you’re mentioned and linked to on the charity’s website.

Doing Well By Doing Good

There’s no harm in improving your company’s bottom line by practicing corporate social responsibility.

In addition to increased sales and consumer loyalty, you can attract better employees with a thoughtful CSR program. Millennials and women especially gravitate toward potential employers who have core values that align with their own. If you don’t have a three-pronged approach to CSR, appoint someone at your company to look into how you can benefit from being a better corporate citizen.

All images via Getty

Steve Milano

Steve Milano is a journalist and business executive/consultant. He has helped dozens of for-profit companies and nonprofits with their marketing and operations. Steve has written more than 8,000 articles during his career, focusing on small business, careers, personal finance and health and fitness. Steve also turned his tennis hobby into a career, coaching, writing, running nonprofits and conducting workshops around the globe.

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