Question: What is the first step an entrepreneur should take if they want to incorporate more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into their business model?
"CSR can be intimidating for new businesses that have a host of other priorities. I advise entrepreneurs to start small, for example at your headquarters. Capture low hanging fruit such as a recycling program, Energy Saver appliance usage and a lights-off-when-not-working policy. As your business grows, so can your CSR efforts."
Align Your Company and the Cause
"Supporting causes and charities is awesome, but it's even better when your values align. So, find a nonprofit partner or embed CSR practices in your organization in a way that is consistent with what you do and who you are. Customers and the press can see when a CSR initiative is fake or only used for PR, and that's a major turn off."
"Try to support movements that are unique to where you are based. It's OK to make contributions to something that increases awareness of the state of polar ice-caps, but if you're an agro processing company it would make more sense to support something closer to home. For example, you can support a movement that encourages sustainable farming in urban areas, or join school feeding schemes."
Work It Into Your Product
"Instead of donating to a charity, think of how you can make your product or service itself more socially responsible. Whether it's sourcing recycled materials for use in the final product or using servers that run on renewable energy, consumers will perceive your sustainably-built brand as more authentically responsible than one that only pays into the concept of sustainability after the fact."
Listen to Your Staff and Customers
"People who’ve invested in your company have the biggest stake in it. Following their opinions will ensure that your CSR fulfills the right objectives for your company and stakeholders."
Identify the Causes That Matter
"To meaningfully incorporate corporate social responsibility into your business, you have to first identify the causes that you can work on in good faith while producing an impact. Ask yourself what causes matter to your employees and to your target market, and how they align with your values. If you find a way to create a difference that matters to both your customers and employees, they'll notice."
Identify Immediate Impacts
"For example, we reached out to a local nonprofit that supported animals and found their immediate needs were less than $500, to be used for food and supplies for their fostered pets. We quickly mobilized and raised the funds, and saw the impact immediately when the pets were fed and cared for through our efforts. This small goal and gesture fueled the desire to get more involved."
Fix What Your Business Breaks
"You need to connect any CSR activity to the core strategy of your business. Look deep within your business to understand who and what your business, by virtue of existing, is affecting. Look at your work force; the product you make; your supply chain. A business can have no greater social impact than by focusing its efforts on improving the lives of workers."
Identify Where You Can Have the Maximum Impact
"If you spread your influence and investment too widely you’ll miss out on the chance to make a real difference. Come up with causes that resonate with who you are as a company, research the kind of support they need, and then find a way to give back to them in a sustainable, impactful way."
Don't Force It
"Don't incorporate CSR just for the sake of it. It's important to have a genuine passion or interest in the organization or NGO that you support. It's best if your missions align. If it's forced, it will show and can reflect badly on you and your brand."