Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business practice that aims to contribute to the societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature. As a business leader, you can promote a genuine interest in your company’s CSR plan by putting your employees and the community first.Unfortunately, many business leaders believe that CSR is someone else’s problem to worry about, but that mindset needs to change. Leaders are not alone in this thinking, but it is vital for them to understand that CSR should be their focus.
Most organizations talk a good game when it comes to corporate social responsibility. In practice, however, things are quite different. Many leaders fail to incorporate CSR into their company’s business model, so it’s time they focus on CSR with the help of their employees.
The Makings of a Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative
In the United States, only one-third of the 600 largest corporations have a systematic sustainability oversight committee that operates at the executive level. Most companies don’t place an emphasis on sustainability yet, the companies that do experience phenomenal success from it.
One way companies can put their money where their mouth is is through sustainable, responsible, and impact investing (SRI). McKinsey & company forecasted that SRI practices have generated over $300 billion in investment funds by 2020.
The organizations that are doing it right have created conditions that enable stakeholders to produce their own sustainability practices. For example, ethics expert Professor CB Bhattacharya has developed a three-phase CSR model that demonstrates how companies can move beyond talk and embed accountability into their corporate culture.
To begin with, the expert notes that psychological ownership encompasses feelings of a connection to a person, company or concept. According to Bhattacharya, research shows that perceptions of psychological ownership contribute to greater engagement, job satisfaction, and increased productivity and revenue in the workplace.
Walking the Corporate Social Responsibility Walk
For executives who want to galvanize a company around sustainability, psychological ownership is a powerful concept. Every day, the public is faced with evidence of climate change and other issues that harm the environment, although many choose to ignore those warnings.
Many people want to do something, but they don’t know what they can do. Business leaders can fulfill people’s desire to do good by transforming employee bystanders and community stakeholders into sustainability partners – including how community members and enterprise stakeholders contribute individually to social good.
Professor Bhattacharya’s construct for creating sustainability ownership includes three parts: incubate, launch and entrench.
Incubation encompasses the process of initially defining the construct of your organization’s accountability domain. During this stage, reflect on your company’s mission and its role in the community and around the world. You can solidify your goals by creating an evidence-based list of issues that exist in your current value chain.
For example, areas of community interest where your company’s objectives overlap with employee and community stakeholder concerns about accountability could be a good starting point to come up with an attractive goal.
When you launch your sustainability initiative, you must introduce it to all stakeholders enthusiastically. Your positivity and energy about your corporate social responsibility initiative must transfer feelings of ownership to vested parties.
To encourage employees and stakeholders to take ownership of sustainability, for instance, showcase it as an opportunity to build a future of well-being for both your enterprise and the community. If they think the CSR initiative will have a positive impact on their lives, they may be more motivated to hop on board.
Now, you’ve planted the seed, but you’re not done yet. You must now entrench those feelings of ownership to make sustainability the status quo around the office. When done correctly, this is an intuitive process for stakeholders.
By developing key metrics and monitoring the performance of your organization’s sustainability performance, you can clearly show how employees and community members contribute to your CSR initiative and the overall betterment of society.
Executive leaders, for instance, can incorporate sustainability goals into their direct reports. They can use this information to benchmark employees, departments, divisions, and business units. These goals will serve as a source of motivation for employees.
Getting the Team To Join the Program
Currently, 85% of S&P 500 enterprises publish annual corporate social responsibility reports. This shows that most companies have their foot in the door of the CSR world, but many employees still aren’t fully invested in the programs. If more people were involved, these programs could really start making a difference.
Start small. As an example, create opportunities for staff members to give back. Giving back may include supporting special causes or charities or helping fellow employees in a time of need. It’s a good idea to let employees have a say in what charities your company supports to incentivize them to become more involved. You can also start a sunshine fund to help employees during personal emergencies, for example.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you communicate how easy it is for employees to participate in these sustainable initiatives. Also, give employees the technological resources that they need so that they have an outlet to do good. For instance, open up a company web portal where employees can find out more information about any CSR initiatives and manage their involvement in your CSR causes.
As your CSR programs expand, consider having an annual employee rally to highlight the accomplishments of your programs. The event will show employees an appreciation for their efforts and give them something to look forward to. You can also fuel employees’ passion for doing good with matching contributions, for instance.
Cone Research discovered that 79% of employees think charitable matching is important for philanthropy. It’s great when employees contribute. However, it’s even more significant when your company does the same.
Taking Your CSR Initiative to the Next Level
Employees who are well-informed about what’s going on are more likely to participate in your CSR initiative. Your employees’ level of engagement depends on regular communication about opportunities to participate in social initiatives. For instance, you can:
- Build an email distribution list for CSR events and news
- Mention CSR opportunities during team meetings
- Promote charitable events in the company newsletter
Most importantly, always remember to recognize employees’ who participate in these initiatives. In other words, recognize your champions who volunteer and participate in your sustainability initiatives. Deep down, everyone wants to do good. People volunteer and give out of the goodness of their hearts.
However, people also crave recognition for their good deeds. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to deliver recognition to your employees. A thank you note from a top executive or an employee perk, such as dress down day, goes a long way in showing how much you appreciate the charitable efforts of your staff members.
It can’t be emphasized enough – change starts at the top. Before you launch any CSR initiative, make sure that top executives – from board members on down – are on board with the program. Most people don’t want to go against the grain or be viewed as someone who has a different opinion than their superiors. Executive support will compel subordinates to fulfill their desire to do good.
Transparency will go a long way in showing employees that you’re serious about corporate social responsibility. Employees will take cues from company communications, for instance, that shows your commitment to serving the community.
In addition to matching donations, for instance, you can offer paid time off for volunteers. By doing so, you’ll reinforce the idea that employees will see rewards for their charitable acts. Eventually, your exemplary leadership will transform your company’s corporate culture to one of compassion, philanthropy and giving.
About the Author: Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter: @AndrewDeen14