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It’s been almost 9 months since I started The CSR Coach, and it has been a lot of fun working with clients. I’ve enjoyed writing, presenting, and shaping the way I bring my experience, knowledge and skills to life in a wide range of situations. Since January I’ve helped educational trusts, dental practices, marketing agencies, manufacturing businesses and even a one-man freelancer put structured CSR in place.
I’ve also had to dispel a number of myths and misunderstandings about CSR.
Are you falling for any of these myths? They group into four areas:
The traditional view of CSR is that it is about giving to charity and good causes. And that is true, but it’s only 20% around of the CSR picture. CSR involves a lot more than just work with good causes. It’s about who your company is, what it believes, and how it does business. It’s about your role, your influence, and your responsibility as part of your community and society. How you play your role as a good corporate citizen. It flows into acting honestly and with integrity as a business, going beyond mere compliance. And it flows into how you treat your team – leading them positively, developing them and giving them a sense of purpose at work. If CSR is done well, and with commitment, it creates heart and energy at the centre of your business.
It’s true that the larger companies have taken CSR seriously for longer. Investors are looking for a strong level of environmental and social responsibility. Partially at least, as a risk management exercise to help in maintaining a social licence to operate.
But many of the same principles that apply to large business also apply to smaller businesses. And that’s because all businesses employ people, sell to people, and need to maintain a positive reputation. Motivating your employees, engaging them and promoting loyalty and productivity are important aspects of running any business. Trust and loyalty with customers is also key for every sizer and sector. CSR contributes positively to each of these, and adds value to the business in the process.
There are two main reasons why this just isn’t true any more.
Over the past 20 years, there has been, and continues to be an increasing shift in consumer expectation to judge business at a standard beyond profit. With the populist press gunning for dentists at every opportunity they get, an approach to being socially responsible, and demonstrating that, is no longer optional.
Structured CSR also helps with communications, commissioning applications, and of course, by being better organised, will raise for money for good causes. Evidence shows that you will attract better applicants, and staff will be more loyal and more engaged. They are consequently more effective – up to 150% more – in socially responsible businesses. Customer loyalty is also stronger.
A structured approach to CSR requires a little thought to get the foundations right. But, as with many things that are important but not urgent in life, taking some time to get a plan in place is vital. Whether it’s developing your online presence by writing a blog, making sure you’re booking enough time to be with family, or even having a plan to get fit, ensuring you have a plan for CSR is in place will pay dividends. It ensures you can get on with business knowing that the important elements around team and environment are taken care of, and your CSR activity and commitments are adding value to your brand.
A well structured CSR plan has much to bring to your business. It goes far wider than supporting charities, but touches many areas of the organisation. It’s for companies of all sizes to take seriously, and has a lot of benefits to offer. And it is achievable – like all the important but non-urgent things in life, it just needs some forethought and planning.