CSR has grown exponentially in recent years to become a serious part of any overarching business strategy. It’s nothing new though, with examples of capitalist benefactors giving generously throughout history.
During the Industrial Revolution, philanthropic entrepreneurs invested heavily in the local area and their employees, building homes for them to live in, parks, museums and giving to charitable causes for the betterment of workers.
In the US, Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune from the steel industry donated millions of dollars to education and scientific research.
In the UK in the late nineteenth century, Joseph Rowntree considered social responsibility an imperative, building garden villages and being concerned with the education and health of his workers.
Put simply, corporate social responsibility, or CSR as it has come to be known, is the method through which businesses and organisations do good and give a little (or sometimes a lot) back to society.
Since the 1950s it has begun to form a greater part of many organisations’ strategic planning, across all functions including sales and marketing, HR and operations.
Your clients may already have a CSR strategy in place, in which case it’s prudent to obtain a copy and ensure you complement this. If a client doesn’t currently have a CSR strategy in place, then now is an excellent time to speak to them about the benefits.
Some stats for you to use in conversations with your clients:
70% of 40–45-year-olds believe the energy industry should hold itself accountable to CSR
66% of Gen Z believe it’s important for businesses to contribute to their communities
68% of online consumers in the US & UK say that they might stop using a brand due to poor CSR
84% say a poor environmental track record would stop them buying from a brand
Nearly half of online consumers would be happy to pay more for socially conscious or environmentally friendly brands.
The appetite is there from consumers to choose brands with strong CSR credentials.
Being a socially responsible organisation brings life to the saying ‘you reap what you sow’. Of course, true philanthropy is aligned with altruism – doing good and expecting nothing in return.
Modern day companies though will often have shareholders who expect a positive return on investment (ROI) for any outgoings and that includes CSR.
It’s not a short-term sales tactic and the benefits can be difficult to measure and attribute. However, the benefits of CSR are bountiful.
Some key benefits of CSR are:
Employee engagement, recruitment and retention
All these benefits will contribute to clients seeing increased profitability when implemented strategically.
Acting on a whim or supporting causes that don’t necessarily align with the company or organisation ethos will have little impact, so clients are best guided towards a structured approach.
Some may be aware of CSR and other might need an introductory walk-through.
One thing’s for sure; an effective CSR strategy needs the buy-in of all stakeholders at every level to ensure it is a journey they are invested in, rather than something that is being forced upon them.
Make sure CSR initiatives are in line with your client’s business strategy and work with them to set SMART KPIs that can be reviewed on a regular basis.
Expectation-setting is crucial, to ensure that no-one involved expects a profit hike immediately after the CSR launch. It’s more a ‘build it and they will come’ mantra.
Work through your clients’ financials to establish any grants or tax relief available for their industry.
For example, your clients may receive tax relief for purchasing energy-efficient technology for their business or on charitable donations.
There are also a number of CSR-focused grants that clients can apply for with various organisations that can help to coordinate this including;
Funding Central - www.fundingcentral.org.uk
Directory for Social Change - https://fundsonline.org.uk
Grants Online - www.grantsonline.org.uk
Key Fund - www.thekeyfund.co.uk
On a global scale, Coca Cola runs its CSR programme under the strapline ‘a world without waste’, with the aim of recycling 100% of their packaging and reducing their carbon footprint by 25% by 2030.
As you might expect from a multinational, the company’s CSR is evaluated in their annual Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Report.
Additionally, they aim to reduce the amount of sugar content across their product portfolio as well as replacing the water used in their drinks back into the natural water cycle.
Focusing on people, these digital media giants have really raised the stakes when it comes to looking after their employees.
Staff at Netflix, for example, are entitled to 52 weeks’ paid parental leave that can be taken immediately after the birth of a child or at a later date.
Spotify offers an above-average 24 weeks of paid leave which they report is having a positive impact on talent attraction.
Financial advisers are well placed to support their clients with implementing effective CSR strategies by helping them to understand the financial implications and opportunities in line with their wider business goals.
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