Got a Do-Gooder Gene? 3 Tips for Launching a Successful CSR Initiative
by Marshall Childs
Posted on Wednesday Sep 13, 2017 at 10:00AM in Finance
No corporate good deed goes unnoticed over in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, the UAE's government recently announced that it's more actively encouraging companies to establish corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, which examine the sponsoring company's impact on social and environmental well-being.
And, while the UAE may be geographically small, it’s got a big impact as home to the business powerhouse-commercial center Dubai.
Of course, CSR initiatives are hardly universal: Some industries and market sectors, believing altruism doesn’t pay, have been slow to take up CSR initiatives. But, now those corners of the commercial world are feeling a friendly push by governmental programs like the UAE's. Alternately, they’ll soon discover on their own the many concrete benefits available to those companies willing to give and the startup partners willing to join forces with them.
Brands such as TOMS shoes and Bombas socks know there’s a significant upside for consumer-goods companies when they’re seen as good corporate citizens. And as millennials age, the benefits of corporate do-gooding for brands’ reputations will become more noticeable to the bottom line. Even setting aside potential spikes in profit, there are internal benefits to a robust CSR initiative.
Once a CSR program does seep into a company’s culture, employees begin to view themselves (and the company) in a different light and buy more into the business’s overall goals. Employees can see how those goals help the community, a realization that leads to a more fulfilled, more mission-focused workforce that sees its powers of profit being used for good.
As a result, employees feel greater connections with one another and more trust in the company.
CSR Initiatives also allow companies and organizations to link up with high-profile partners and reach audiences far larger than they might have achieved. For example, the international development nonprofit Pact has a partnership with The Coca-Cola Foundation that has resulted in the soft drink empire's donating millions toward the nurturing of economic development for women in Southeast Asia.
Coke's work with Pact has worked out so well, in fact, that the beverage maker has invested more than $500 million in grants to similar organizations that emphasize "women, water and well-being."
A foray into CSR can be daunting for a company, but a few strategies can help an initiative to take flight:
Almost two years ago, Target decided to focus its own CSR offerings on improving wellness for its employees and its stores' surrounding communities. The company has joined forces with organizations such as Common Threads, Alliance for a Healthier Generation and others to foster wellness knowledge and healthy eating habits among school-aged children. Target's effort to focus on youth can pay dividends, and its choice to tackle one cause across several organizations could amplify its impact.
A successful CSR program falls within the company’s specific expertise or geographic market. As a grocer, Target saw the premium its customers put on wellness and healthful eating. Seeing its position in the marketplace and the influence it could have on customers' eating and shopping habits, the retailer made wellness a priority for its customers and sought partnerships with foundations that also focused on the issue.
Figure out what your company has to offer, and make sure it aligns with a need of your corporate partner. For some companies, that means a big financial investment, but for others it could merely mean a donation of resources and labor. Speak with potential partners or do a bit of research before pinpointing where you want to help and how you want to contribute.
Once your company has undertaken a cause, figure out where that need is at its most dire. By going where the situation is most pressing, a company can exert maximum influence.
In 2016, my company, MEBO International, joined the United Nations’ “Every Woman, Every Child” program. One of our core business tenets is treating burn victims in impoverished regions, as burns contribute to 265,000 deaths per year and constitute the 11th-most common cause of death for children between 1 and 9 years old. We have vowed to donate 15,000 tubes of our skin regenerative ointment to "Every Woman, Every Child" and place 10 doctors in underserved areas to supervise free medical care.
Because we specialize in regenerative treatment, it was pretty easy for us to identify our big task to take on. For organizations without such direction, find something large in scope that will address your selected cause head-on. Our company saw a high concentration of burn cases in a certain demographic, so that's the cause we chose to target. Find the region, age group or other common denominator that most affects the cause you're adopting; then focus your powers there.
While a project’s parameters need to be big enough to warrant employee engagement, it is important to remember that sometimes you can achieve a greater good by working with corporate peers.
For example, take sustainable energy initiatives, a sizable problem that affects multiple market sectors. We Mean Business -- a group that includes IKEA, Walmart and others -- plans to launch an initiative to help the United States reach 100 percent renewable power. The unit knows a move toward more sustainable measures will require powerful, influential business voices, which is why it's using its position to advocate for stronger policy frameworks that will ease the transition toward sustainability.
As tempting as it may be to try to do good all on your own, every organization has weaknesses. Identify yours, team with a partner that fills those gaps for you and see if you can reciprocate.
Do an internal audit of where your company excels and falls behind: Maybe your company has a big vision and plan of execution for your cause but lacks the financial or human resources to get there. Research potential partners and link up with ones that can help put your plan into action. A complementary relationship like this can lead to a more fulfilling partnership that can yield positive results for years to come.
A CSR program changes the trajectory of your company culture; and, fortunately, there is no better time to establish a program than right now. Forge a company initiative that bigger fish, such as governments and corporations, will be interested in getting behind. Let your good deeds get noticed and affect a wider audience than you even anticipated.
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