Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) isn’t the same tick box exercise of the past. The days of social good being relegated to a department, or even a programme, have long gone.
Social accountability is becoming ingrained in everything we do, both in and out of work. As the world evaluates, then re-evaluates, what is important – thanks primarily to the emotional roller-coaster that has been 2020 – it’s vital to not only embrace change but spearhead it. Look at how the we have adapted to remote working and self-isolating. Businesses have proven that they can be flexible when they need to be.
As we push ourselves to be better, we ask why corporate social responsibility in its current form feels more and more like a token gesture. Sometimes CSR is activated as an afterthought, or as a puff piece, and it’s very rarely measurable. Its immeasurability works against it in the board room, when good intentions get lost in conversations about revenue and growth.
So, just why is having a business conscience so important?
The question is no longer ‘can we afford to be socially aware and proactive?’ but ‘how can we afford not to be?’ Never before have businesses been held so accountable for their actions. In a recent blog we explored how organisations will be judged by their handling of the coronavirus pandemic long after we have found a vaccine, and this is true for a multitude of issues.
Think, BP’s oil crisis. Think, the infamous Pepsi advert. Think, Volkswagen emissions scandal. Of course, these are extreme cases, but the message remains the same. How a brand acts – or doesn’t act – affects the way consumers perceive it.
Global issues are worsening and on a scale that we have not previously witnessed. Climate change, for example, is a crisis that organisations must take a stance on. A narrative will be made up for you by your consumers and the press if you don’t make one for yourself.
But as we’ve discussed above, is CSR in its current form really working?
How should CSR evolve?
The concept of corporate social responsibility is sound, but often good intentions get convoluted and a CSR programme is enacted in name only.
Perhaps the answer lies in these initial conversations, when a company is starting or merging or rebranding. This change presents a business with the opportunity to refresh both corporate culture and corporate action. It’s here that CSR should be ingrained so that every big decision – from hiring talent to communications to charity work to new products – reflects positive social change.
Mahatma Gandhi put it beautifully when he told people to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
There are practical steps organisations can take right now, including aligning themselves with likeminded charities and encouraging volunteer programmes for employees. These need to be enacted under a larger social good strategy, however, and not be siloed into separate projects.
If you’re looking for inspiration, look to those who are getting CSR right, including; Johnson & Johnson which has been reducing its impact on the planet for over 30 years; Google which has pledged over $1 billion to renewable energy projects; Netflix which offers its employees flexible parental leave of up to 52 weeks.
No matter the issue – big or small – if your company sets its sights on making a difference then you should pursue it wholeheartedly. It’s amazing the difference you can make as an individual, let alone with a business behind you.