August 23, 2018

Tips for improving your corporate social responsibility strategy

When done right, corporate social responsibility lets businesses show that they are passionate not only about their work, but the world around them. It can also be a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Here, some tips and benefits to improve your strategy from our VP Employee Experience Deb LaMere.

One long-term goal for any business should be a commitment to crafting a strong, differentiated employer brand, both internally and externally.

Internally, leading organizations look to bolster engagement, strengthen culture, and elevate the employee experience.

Externally, one important aspect of the employer brand is a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is the way in which a company decides to act ethically, and be accountable for its social, economic and environmental impact.

When done right, CSR lets businesses show that they are passionate not only about their work, but also the world around them. CSR can also be a powerful recruitment and retention tool, helping businesses differentiate themselves amongst the competition.

How powerful is the impact of CSR? The 2017 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR study found that 63% of Americans are hopeful businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change moving forward, in the absence of government regulation. It also found that 87% will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while 76% will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

Here are some of the ways organizations benefit from a solid CSR platform:

  • Improved public image and perception: Companies that do good get positive feedback, whether through good press, improved reputation, or creating stronger community connections.  
  • Increased brand awareness and recognition: A company’s active involvement in and commitment to CSR can help keep it top of mind for current and prospective customers – and employees.
  • Cost savings: This one is more practical. Committing to using less packaging, for example, can reduce costs. 
  • Increased customer engagement: A Nielsen study found that 66% of global respondents were willing to pay more for a product based on certain sustainability factors, like a company being environmentally friendly or a commitment to social values. Customers show loyalty to brands with which they share values – and a commitment to CSR lets companies show how their values come to life.
  • Greater employee engagement: Employees, especially millennials, want to work for a company that stands for something. When you embrace CSR, you not only attract invested employees, but you create an environment that fosters productivity, creativity, and professional growth.
  • Better market performance: Research has shown that CSR can positively influence a company’s financial performance.

This is all great for your company, but your CSR activities can’t be successful if you don’t have a clear strategy in place. Here are some tips to get started.

Tips for building a CSR strategy

1. Believe in corporate social responsibility 

The benefits to your organization are great, but if you don’t believe in CSR, then your efforts won’t be genuine, and employees and customers can see that. Don’t pursue CSR just for the sake of it. You need to believe in a particular goal and purpose, and create a strategy to achieve it.

2. Know your values, and understand how they come to life in your community

What do you stand for and believe in? Not every company has to be a green company, for example. Maybe you stand for sustainability, diversity, or human rights. As an organization, you need to be very clear on what you stand for, and integrate your brand promise and values into your strategy. Some companies may start with projects like fundraising for a cause or supporting a chosen charity that clearly aligns with, and supports, their values.

3. Localize your efforts

For CSR initiatives to be impactful, it’s important to consider a local focus. Even if you’re a global company with a global CSR campaign, understand how your activities can have an effect in local communities. How can your offices get involved in their immediate and extended communities? This builds trust, momentum, and consistency in your overall CSR initiatives.

4. Involvement at all levels of the organization

While it’s true that a CSR strategy requires executive buy-in, you need employee involvement as well. Involving employees in the process builds motivation and a sense of autonomy, and can promote innovation. Employees are also more likely to participate in CSR activities when they have been able to direct or contribute to the strategy and activities.

5. Encourage participation

A plan doesn’t work if it’s not communicated to everyone. Let employees know what you’re planning and how they can get involved – and let them know early.

If you’re starting a new CSR program, an incentive program can give it a little boost. Encourage healthy competition by providing employee-chosen rewards for funds raised or volunteer hours. Also, don’t underestimate the power of swag.

6. Understand financial implications

Doing good can cost money. Setting up and implementing a CSR strategy can, in some cases, mean a high initial outlay. And while it benefits organizations in a number of ways, it still has to answer to various stakeholders, which could include stockholders, investors, and employees.

When you’re planning your CSR strategy, it’s key to understand and track several key metrics, such as monetary outlay, stock prices if you’re publicly traded, sales and production costs, and the return on your investment – whether it be impact on revenue, or measures like reputation, retention or employee engagement.. Don’t begin a CSR program until you know the implications from all aspects of the company.

Organizations have a strong influence in our society. They are corporate citizens, and more customers are expecting them to play a positive role in how we live and purchase. Setting up a CSR strategy is not only smart, it’s expected.

Deb LaMere

Deb LaMere is the Vice President of Employee Experience at Ceridian. With 17 years’ experience in human resources, Deb is responsible for employee engagement, talent management and performance management for Ceridian.

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