What is corporate social responsibility? A better question might be: What does it mean to you? What does it mean to your company? What is the true importance of corporate social responsibility? Think about your friends, family and colleagues. Many of us take it upon ourselves to be responsible citizens in ways that have meaning for us personally. Sometimes we choose ways that benefit us, or that we find enjoyable.
A runner, for example, might choose to run a charity race. It’s a win-win if they like what they’re doing, especially if it motivates them to take action. Some people may prefer to donate money to help causes in another part of the globe. Others may donate their time and energy to pull trash from a waterway near their home. All might be incredibly beneficial, and can only be measured by its importance to those who do it. Similarly, smart companies today are asking themselves; How do we want to help benefit the people, the social systems or the environment of this planet?
Many companies have woven social responsibility into their culture. They choose issues that are integral to their values as a company. And it’s no secret — and nothing to be ashamed of — that social responsibility can boost the bottom line in significant, and measurable ways (more on that in a later). Plenty of consumers respect the actions of responsible companies and as a result favor their products or services. Again, it’s a win-win!
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What Are the True Advantages and Benefits of CSR?
When looking at the benefits of corporate social responsibility it’s important to remember there are as many definitions and examples of social responsibility as there are businesses. Your company’s definition can mean choosing fair labor practices. It can mean donating to environmental causes. It can take place thousands of miles from corporate headquarters, or it can be a part of daily life in the office. Take Google, a perennially top-ranked company in terms of its socially responsible reputation. Their motto “Do No Evil” begins with each employee: Google is known to treat its workers very well. They didn’t need to search far and wide to find something they felt was important. Do you think Google benefits from having happy workers? What company wouldn’t?
Many companies choose initiatives that arise naturally from their own expertise or resources. Financial companies might donate time teaching kids or adults financial literacy. Microsoft, which regularly ranks among companies with the best reputations for social responsibility, focuses on technology and entrepreneurship. They donate money, equipment and education to connect less fortunate kids with computers and job opportunities.
Increasingly, social responsibility is not just something that consumers look for. Employers have begun to weigh heavily the vision and values of prospective employees — understanding and valuing the importance of CSR is quickly becoming a job requirement. Likewise, many younger people looking for jobs won’t consider working for an employer who doesn’t have authentic, effective initiatives.
Evaluating the Impact of CSR on Both Customers and Employees
Here’s a question companies may ask themselves to assess their efforts: Do our social responsibility initiatives strengthen our reputation, our culture, and our bottom line, while also benefiting the greater good?
Let’s go back to the example of the runner who enters a charity race. He or she can feel good about the cause while doing something to benefit their health. Companies can likewise opt to work on themselves to get started with, or refocus, on social responsibility. Consider an initiative that benefits local schools, parks or wilderness areas, while building bonds between colleagues. That’s the approach Positive Adventures takes. At the end of our programs, employees can see the good they’ve done in painting a mural, improving a playground, helping a family in need, or numerous other tangible ways.
After such programs, colleagues return to the office stronger, having taken part in a valuable shared experience that had a purpose. That benefit will be no less tangible next time a challenge pops up at work. The bonds that have been reinforced, the teamwork skills that have been enhanced, the communication lines that have been oiled — it can all make an impact on employee satisfaction, work quality, reputation, and of course, the bottom line.