When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), the question for business leaders today is not whether to pursue it, but how to integrate its principles into the core of their operations, and how to ensure that real change and social progress are the results.
In other words, having a basic program to give back to the community or pursue sustainable environmental practices is not enough; companies need to make sure that the ideas behind these practices are consistent with their business goals, across every part of the organization.
Failing to do so could mean:
- An inability to attract the best employee talent
- A lack of employee engagement across the company
- A total disconnect with customers
Bluntly put, if you don’t get your corporate social responsibility efforts on track, you could be in trouble.
That may sound dramatic, but not if you consider that, according to a Cone Communications Global CSR Study, 91 percent of global consumers expect companies to address social and environmental issues, and 84 percent look for socially responsible products. Just as important, employees expect more of the companies they work for, and will actively move to join organizations where employee engagement and social action are part of the mission. According to a Deloitte survey, a majority of millennials feel a sense of accountability to the world around them, and they look to their employers to help them make an impact. It is often said that corporate responsibility is good for our world and good for business, but it is more accurate to say that it is essential for the survival of both.
So, what are the ideas behind CSR that should be driving your business? On the broadest level, the concepts of cooperation, sustainability, and community and global awareness should enter the equation in some form in every decision made in your company. Operational practices should reflect these principles; employee training and development efforts should embrace them; and business planning, including product and service development, should be influenced by them. Philanthropy and volunteerism should ultimately bolster your company’s brand and business objectives.
Here are some considerations for advancing your CSR efforts to the next level:
To make a powerful social impact – and an impact on your business and brand – it is critical to pursue opportunities that align with your company’s vision and goals. Instead of donating to multiple unrelated causes, or partnering with countless local, national and global nonprofit organizations, choose your efforts carefully, and focus them specifically in areas that make sense for what your company actually does.
DHL, for instance, is all about global leadership and international cooperation. After all, we operate in more than 220 countries and territories around the globe, employing 340,000 people worldwide.
Our partnership with the group WE – which brings people together around the world who wish to effect positive change – is not only a cause I am personally very passionate about, but one that integrates with our brand and our mission. Working with WE, our company has launched the DHL Global Youth Volunteer Fellowship Award, which is directly aligned with what we do. Through it, five U.S. students will meet with and learn from DHL leaders and WE mentors, and they will travel to Ecuador to work side by side with locals in the community on development projects.
Involve Employees Every Day
Your company’s social responsibility program should not just take the form of gifts from the executive office. Every employee should be involved and, as mentioned, most of them want to be. You can do this by encouraging volunteerism through your partner organizations, offering paid “volunteer time.” Also consider conducting – and then acting on – a comprehensive survey of the issues and causes that matter most to your employees.
Live the Change Across the Company
With buy-in and support from every part of your organization, you can make sure your company’s actions consistently match its message for social action. If sustainability and environmental causes are part of your CSR efforts, then you need to not only work with environmental groups, but assess every part of your organization to reduce waste, promote recycling and limit emissions.
What is your company doing to thrive through social responsibility? Let us know on Twitter @DHLUS.