The importance of social responsibility has grown over the last decade. In the light of problems facing the world - from social inequality to climate change - businesses have been called upon to act ethically, and to use their influence and resources to help find solutions.
The reason for this goes beyond the moral code. Customers have long been drawn to brands that commit to sustainable and socially conscious practices. A 2020 study by Trivium Packaging found that nearly 74% of consumers would be willing to pay more for sustainably-packaged products. Trivium’s Michael Mapes has said that “consumers’ focus is on sustainable living now more than ever, and they’re willing to pay to protect the planet.”
For start-ups, all of this can feel overwhelming. When the economy finds itself in a position of uncertainty, it might feel tempting to put social missions on the backburner. However, there are plenty of ways to continue to uphold these values even through the toughest of times. Here are some simple steps to take that keep corporate social responsibility at the core of your business.
Corporate social responsibility does not start and end with the directors of your company. On the contrary, it requires a whole team effort.
By educating your employees and ensuring they all buy into this responsibility, you are setting your organisation up for success. An organisation is its people, after all, so be sure that yours represent your values and support your goals.
Take this one step further and assemble a committee from across the company. This will ensure that your social mission is made an ongoing priority, instead of fizzling out when something more challenging crops up. You will also be able to incorporate the voices of all employees in your plans, once again boosting buy-in.
Your corporate social mission should not exceed your means to fulfil it. Be realistic about the goals you set so that your organisation doesn’t suffer as a result of your ambition. Remember that, even though this is important, your business needs to come first.
Feasibility should also come into play when thinking about your long-term mission. The current economic climate means caution is necessary if your business is to survive. But your social responsibility extends beyond this year or even next year.
Are the goals you are setting sustainable for your business and for your community? What structures can you put in place now to ensure the longevity of your commitment to corporate social responsibility?
Your contribution to worthy causes need not be purely financial. Consider whether an employee volunteer programme might be a more viable option. Whether through assisting in short-term opportunities or, for example, acting as a more long-term mentor to young people interested in your industry; the benefits of volunteering to employees can include the opportunity for them to develop new skills, and the sense of pride they will feel in having personally helped a charitable cause.
Similarly, could you re-examine your processes to identify areas for improvement, for example in your waste disposal, office supplies, and energy suppliers? If you could swap some of these for more sustainable alternatives, you could boost your reputation as a sustainable brand without needing to forfeit on cash flow to such a degree.
When championing the importance of supporting local communities, it’s important that these values are lived and breathed within your organisation.
Review your processes with regard to employee wellbeing and development. How can you ensure that your employees are being treated as assets to your company instead of purely cost? Could your work space be more inclusive or open?
A great place to start is by asking your employees their opinions on what you’re doing well and what could be better. An anonymous survey takes little time and could provide you with valuable insights that can be easily implemented. Some ideas might not be feasible; be honest about the steps you are taking as a result of the survey.
Social responsibility, by its very nature, encourages collaboration. Look to partner with other organisations in your sector or your local area to bolster your efforts. Doing so could mean you are able to make an even bigger contribution to the causes you choose to support.
Perhaps your respective companies could nominate yourselves as teams in a fundraiser? Healthy competition and more participants will benefit everyone involved. At the same time, working with others will keep you accountable to the goals you have set. This means you are much more likely to honour your commitment and achieve your goals together.
As a video production company, we’re really pleased that our work regularly gives us the opportunity to shine a light on organisations that we feel are doing great things. Take the video that we produced for USE-IT!, for example, which showcased vital community engagement work and showed local people finding solutions to the socio-economic problems faced by parts of Birmingham.