Beyond box-ticking – Giving meaning to CSR

Let’s face it, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes are often implemented on an ad hoc basis. And while they may have positive effects, these are often short-lived. Companies feel that they have to do something to give back, so they host a once-off event that is more about marketing the business in a positive light than it is about actually making a difference.

But this is no longer good enough. CSR needs to be seen as a contributor to profitability. To get this right, social responsibility efforts should be treated like any other business strategy – with a solid plan that outlines your goal, measures progress, and changes as the needs of your key stakeholders change. This kind of CSR is sustainable and has a measurable impact on society.

Paradigm shift

 Here are our top tips for improving your approach to CSR:

  • Satisfy all stakeholders. Be it your beneficiaries, colleagues, partners, customers, or prospects, the success of your CSR efforts depend on their support. Take time to think about how everyone will be affected by the decisions you make and involve them in each stage of the process. It is essential that your CSR strategy aligns with your business values.
  • Leverage your expertise and skills. If you run an IT business and you’re setting up a digital library at an underprivellged school, it makes sense to use your IT expertise to ensure that the project is a success. Use what you already know to make an impact. The private sector can help alleviate social problems if each business contributes their expertise and knowledge to a different cause.

At Sage, we contribute by creating products that make admin easier so that business owners have more time to focus on running their organisations. By donating our accounting and payroll products to NPOs, like we did for the Thope Foundation, we help them to increase their efficiency and, as a result, their impact.

  • Find your purpose. Want your CSR initiative to have an impact? You have to ensure it is purpose-driven. Try to align your efforts to a global cause. For example, if you’re commited to educating underprivileged children, your work aligns nicely with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to achieve inclusive and quality education for all.
  • Create a formal strategy. CSR must be treated like any other business initiative. This means having objectives and deliverables, and ensuring that all outcomes are measurable. In line with this, it’s important to regularly sit down and assess the impact and progress you’re making. This will allow you to address any problems and to make changes where necessary.
  • Communicate. Communicate. CSR is about building strong relationships with your stakeholders because they’re the people who ultimately care about the results. Communicate regularly and transparently with the executive board members to showcase how your efforts are impacting profit and/or public perception. Speak to your beneficiaries to understand their challenges and come up with strategies to help. Clearly communicate your strategy to your team and make sure that they understand their role in the process.

If a business is really serious about being a part of social development and economic growth, it needs to prioritise and strategise its CSR contributions.

The best way to do this is by being interactive, proactive, and reactive. This means engaging all stakeholders, aligning projects with business strategy/stakeholder needs, and communicating successes, while being willing to make changes where necessary.