Getting started with CSR: 5 lessons from successful companies

Most employer's corporate social responsibility programs achieve some positive results, but not all are reaching their full potential, according to CSR expert Jonathan Champ. So what are the most successful companies doing to ensure their CSR programs are effective on all levels?

#1 Know your business

The most effective companies ensure that giving and volunteering activities are clearly aligned with their business. Hannah Rose, National CSR Manager from Sparke Helmore Lawyers, says truly understanding your company values “will help you shape an approach to socially responsible business practices that is in line with the needs of your business and engages your staff."

When realigning their CSR programs, Smartgroup Corporation issued employee surveys that asked employees about issues important to them and the types community activities they were involved in outside of work. They used this information to determine which causes and categories would be integrated into their new giving programs, mobilising employee engagement.

#2 Know what you want to achieve

Companies that are effective ensure they 'make it matter' when it comes to their community, volunteering and giving activities, by leading, aligning and integrating with strategy, culture, and customers.

For example, Hannah speaks about the strength of Sparke Helmore’s Diversity Program, including the Six Degrees women’s network that aims to encourage, motivate, and support Sparke Helmore’s women and women in their client community. This program aligns company culture both in and out of the office, incorporating a wider community of stakeholders.

#3 Are you getting the results that you want?

Successful companies ensure that their partnerships with causes are aligned to their objectives, that the targets for social and business outcomes are reviewed & evaluated, and the processes are owned & managed.

This requires businesses to 'set their path' and evaluate the type of giving they can afford. One company that did this well is IMC, a global leader in propriety trading. IMC rounded up 60% of their workforce to become SuperHeroes for Bear Cottages Superhero Day, contributing valuable donation hours. Volunteers donated a total of 336 hours.

This example demonstrates the importance of choosing the right type of giving- something remains in line with what the business can offer and the kind of social investment that the cause needs.

#4 Time to launch

The most effective companies ensure variety and multiple options for their staff to contribute to CSR programs. They make participation easy and strive to create maximum impact from their activities.

GroupM successfully used Benojo's platform to coordinate their 2016 Power of One Day- an annual event during which all 700 GroupM staff in APAC stop work for a day and spend time giving back to their local communities.

Sarah Crowley, GroupM HR & Talent Manager says increasing employee engagement in the group’s CSR efforts was a key driver in being able to offer staff a choice in how they took part in the Power of One day. “From speaking to people, we found many actually wanted to donate their time, to be involved with the charities and get to experience firsthand exactly what the charities are about.”

#5 Storytelling & growth

The most effective companies build on the results of their programs through evaluating and applying the insights from their activities.

These companies understand the role of sharing and storytelling to amplify the impact of their community activity through social media, marketing, and public relations to deepen the relationship with employees, causes & communities.

Consider the following: what was the most memorable and impactful part of your corporate giving? What resonated with you and your team? How did the beneficiaries respond? In developing the story, start by considering its purpose; its audience; the narrator (who is best placed to tell the story in a meaningful way? Perhaps this is a staff member or the charity you worked with?); the medium (i.e. will it have greater impact as a video or a blog?); where it will be hosted; and how it will be shared.

This is the Grow & Tell phase of your CSR strategy and will allow you to share your accomplishments with others.

Contact us for more information and free advice about how we can help grow your CSR program.