Is corporate social responsibility just a sales exercise?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming an increasing focus for many companies. But how can your business make sure your CSR activities have real meaning and aren’t just a sales exercise?

CSR is the continuing commitment by a business to contribute to economic development while being responsible to stakeholders. A significant part of CSR is also managing or improving the social and environmental impacts of the company.

With the rise of social media and transparency, companies are starting to take CSR more seriously. After all, trading responsibly looks good and can increase sales! Did you know that, according to the UK Small Business Consortium, 88% of consumers are “more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society”?

Make your CSR activities more than a sales and PR exercise

If you are looking to garner internal support within your company or board for CSR activities, it’s easy to look at numbers like that 88% figure and focus purely on “selling” the idea of CSR as an investment in sales and public relations. But it’s vital for everyone in the organisation – from management through to every stakeholder – to understand that a CSR policy can have much more far-reaching benefits for the company and for the wider society that supports it.

CSR can deliver much more than positive customer perception! Here are the five major ways that CSR does good for a business and its wider environment:

1) Employee Engagement

Involving employees in corporate social responsibility activities can assist with team building, improve motivation and allow employees to develop new skills, all of which can lead to improved productivity. Employee involvement also helps retain staff: remember, happy employees tend to be proud employees with a deeper level of loyalty to the organisation!

2) Employee Attraction

A clear CSR vision and goals can assist with attracting employees with shared values. It can also give the business a competitive edge when competing for talent.

3) Collaboration

Don’t forget to tell your suppliers, customers and the community about your CSR activities — and get them involved, if you can! Collaborative CSR activity is great for developing enhancing relationships and can lead to increased networks, sharing of ideas and more business opportunities.

4) Cost Reduction

Did you realise that CSR can lead to a measurable financial benefit to your organisation? CSR can help companies reduce costs by:

  • More efficient staff hire and retention
  • Implementing energy savings programs and waste reduction initiatives
  • Managing potential risks and liabilities more effectively
  • Less investment in traditional advertising

5) Provision for the future

While we’re discussing CSR’s connection to your company’s financial health, have you thought about how CSR activities can contribute to the sustainability of the business, and of society generally? Sustainability is even more important as the population increases – in 2035 we’ll have an extra billion people in the world. Businesses need to take a leadership role in CSR activities that help protect the environment, in order to make sure that both they and society as a whole have a future at all.

In order to achieve the benefits outlined here, CSR must be more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise. There needs to be a long-term focus at the highest levels of the organisation on achieving these results. And don’t forget, CSR isn’t just for big businesses: companies of all shapes and sizes should discuss CSR and include this in daily business practice.

A few years back iMultiply entered into a charity partnership with Scottish charity ProjectScotland. Our charity partnership with ProjectScotland means that when we successfully place a person in a role, we commit to supporting a young person. This support allows them to up-skill through the charity partnership consequently providing a vital opportunity to progress their own working life. This partnership is our way of supporting our local community and reinvesting in the future workforce of Scotland. 

Yes, CSR can increase sales – which is great – but we mustn’t ignore the much wider positive impact for all stakeholders.

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