It is no longer enough for organisations to simply focus on economic factors such as profit as measures of success. Businesses are now expected to care for external factors such as the environment, sustainability and the local communities in which they operate. Many organisations are becoming increasingly aware of this need to develop business strategies that go beyond economic factors. As a result, they have begun to integrate robust corporate social responsibility strategies, and for good reason.
What is CSR?
For businesses that engage in CSR activities, it is very important to have a clear understanding of what the practice is and the benefits it can bring for the organisation and broader society. CSR refers to companies taking their impact on society and the wider environment in account when it comes to their business strategy. The European Commission defines CSR as ‘the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society.’ The Commission also notes, for enterprises to fully live up to the CSR doctrine, ‘enterprises should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical, human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders.’
Developing a Strong Culture
CSR activities play a key role in contributing to the development of an organisation’s culture, and can help with attracting and retaining employees. Externally, if a company has a strong record of CSR activities, this reflects well on its care for external concerns such as sustainability and can resonate with potential recruits. It also helps existing employees to feel a sense of fulfilment and job satisfaction. These are essential characteristics for any organisation who wants to compete in the competitive employee market.
Involving employees in CSR activities also aids their professional development. Engaging in CSR activities exposes employees to situations they would not encounter in their daily role. This helps employees to broaden their knowledge and skillset, strengthening both the employee and the organisation.
Perception and Brand Building
While CSR should not be done with the sole purpose of improving the public’s perception of a business, it is important to recognise the value that it can bring in this respect. A strong CSR strategy, complemented with a focused communication plan, helps members of the public to view an organisation as a force for good, and acts as a key differentiator.
Creating trust among the public is key to building a successful brand. CSR is a great way of building trust as it shows that the organisation cares about more than simply turning a profit. This increased level of trust helps to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
Connecting with Communities
CSR activities are a great way of connecting with local communities. Having a good working relationship with the local stakeholders is key to overcoming any hurdles that may arise in the future. Anchoring a business in the community is the best way to showcase to local stakeholders that the organisation values and respects its neighbours.
Microsoft is a great example of an organisation that has placed itself at the centre of the communities in which it operates.. At the heart of the company’s CSR strategy is the Microsoft Employee Giving Program. As part of the program, Microsoft matches employee donations of time and money. In 2022, Microsoft donated over $255 million and employees volunteered over 720,000 hours in the US alone. This money and time goes to worthy causes that better the lives of many, generating strong social capital for Microsoft.
There are so many benefits to implementing a robust CSR strategy, and the benefits are experienced externally and internally. A strong CSR record helps attract and retain top talent, creates a good working environment and culture, and helps to build a strong brand that is trusted by stakeholders, all of which are essential for a business to be successful.