Let’s face it, the terms “corporate” and “business” aren’t the most moving or humanitarian words in the English language.
When we think “corporate”, we tend to imagine numbers, finances, and office work.
But doing great work and making a difference through your business could (and should) go way beyond the office.
Companies have a certain degree of power and authority in society, on a social, economic and environmental level. Harnessing this power and using it to do good could change your business from the inside out.
One notable trend in business today is a growing focus on people and culture. In a world where technologies are revolutionising (or even replacing) human tasks, capabilities and roles as well as where remote working is becoming the norm for most companies, being human and celebrating this is more important than ever.
So, how does this apply to your business? This is where the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) comes in.
“Corporate social responsibility refers to the idea that businesses should balance profit-making activities
with activities that benefit society.”
Corporate social responsibility is also referred to as ‘corporate accountability’, ‘corporate citizenship’ and ‘sustainability’.
This means assisting and serving people beyond the typical corporate sense of the word; that is, simply delivering a service that meets a client’s needs.
Naturally, this involves investing time, money or other resources into certain groups, events, initiatives or projects in the interest of the community.
But why should your business care about social responsibility, especially at a time where you’re probably being more cautious on spending?
Firstly, corporations have the power to do good. In our society, businesses can have a great deal of influence socially, economically and politically. In a capitalist system, they are stakeholders with financial resources that give them greater institutional power.
Taking initiative and using this power for good – by choice, not by obligation – says a lot about a person or business.
Secondly, shifts in public consciousness have also heavily influenced corporate trends.
Today, consumers and investors expect more from corporations than ever before, putting pressure on them to provide greater transparency and contributions to the world.
However, according to the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, only 23% of Australian businesses consider social responsibility a top priority. More than half (53%) say that it is not a focus at all.
This is compared with 86% of millennials who believe business success involves more than just financial performance, and 55% who would pay more for products and services from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
In the US, for example, consumers demand that companies support issues such as Domestic Job Growth, Racial Equality, Women’s Rights, Cost of Higher Education, Immigration, Climate Change, and LGBTQ Rights.
This is also true globally, where we’re witnessing many consumers wanting to align themselves with businesses that are supporting global movements such as Black Lives Matter to name but a few.
“This […] is a wake-up call for organisations to look beyond their own four walls, cultivate these relationships in a meaningful way and reimagine their approach to their workforce – and their broader role in society — if they want to succeed.” – David Brown, Deloitte Human Capital Leader
So, by taking social responsibility, you examine and optimise what you can do for society, you build your brand ethos, and you radiate good intention and community awareness from the inside out.
It’s as simple as this: as a business, you do good, look good, and feel good as a result.
Let’s take a look at how.
Consider the resources that your company has to offer.
Ask yourself: What can I do to contribute to society as a business? Where could I make a difference?
Though certainly not exhaustive, here is a list of some endeavours that may be worth your attention:
A great starting point is to look within your business. What are you doing internally to ensure happiness and fairness in your workplace?
This is where establishing clear values and ethics is key, and this will also help you with your employer branding in the next step.
Staying true to these values, ask your staff what could be improved and what changes they might like to see in the workplace. Listening to their proposals and implementing ethical regulations or practices accordingly is crucial for cultivating wellbeing and morale in an internal capacity.
This is also important for global businesses with teams that operate in different cultural settings and jurisdictions, where people’s desires and expectations will naturally differ.
Being mindful of these sensitivities is one of the secrets of responsible intercultural business practice.
Focusing this responsibility outward to the world around us, consider doing more to practise environmental sustainability. Business activities have a considerable carbon footprint, between office maintenance, printing, manufacturing and other labour processes.
Even minimal changes could reduce your company’s environmental impact, such as eliminating single-use plastics, digitising hard copy papers, or using timers for lights and heaters.
Consider donating funds, products or services to a good cause. Local programs and larger not-for-profit charity campaigns can all benefit from the resources that corporations can provide, as well as the publicity that can come with this.
Upholding your values and missions, consider participating in community events that align with your beliefs – such as workshops, forums, conferences and initiatives. From small businesses, to start-ups, to multi-national corporations, companies of all sizes and sectors can do their bit in this space.
If you have the capacity to give back more, however, hosting your own events could take your involvement and visibility even further. Inviting like-minded partners and/or sponsors will increase not only the event’s influence but also your business network, boosting exposure across various locations and industries.
Now that you are investing in initiatives to be a more socially responsible business, it is a good idea to promote these efforts publicly. This will garner attention for the events that you participate in and could remarkably improve your employer branding.
Make use of print and digital platforms to share news, social media posts, collaborations and features with partner firms.
Optimising your social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and employing emotional and inspirational language in your content is also important for consistency and developing your brand ethos.
The mission and principles that you carry out within your internal teams should also be conveyed in the material that you share with the public.
If this is done well, you will find that your staff are pleased to represent a brand that stays true to its values, and you might wish to congratulate and reward them for doing so as extra motivation.
Lastly, you can feel good knowing that you have made an executive decision for your business that was about more than growth and corporate strategy.
Of course, there are great benefits to reap from a professional standpoint, given the positive publicity and networking opportunities that come from doing good. But if you truly believe in doing good, this shouldn’t be the prime motivation.
From a moral viewpoint, taking social responsibility is a no-brainer, and it can help others even more than you can imagine. As a business, you have resources – time, money, access to goods and services – that others do not, and you have used that privilege to help those in need.
So, forget numbers for a second – and put a smile on that dial!
Are you also mindful about the ethics of the brands and companies you buy from?