CSR and its value in the workplace
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). So is it just another buzz word and something to jump on the bandwagon of, or is it something that’s actually meaningful and worthwhile? Let’s have a think about what it really is and how it can impact on employees and the workplace.
A company needs to show social responsibility these days. Customers expect this and will look for companies which operate ethically and with social and environmental responsibility. The bottom line is about image and it’s important that your Company has a positive image and one which will attract as many customers as possible. Promote certain values and you’ll attract like-minded customers, as well as employees who are the right fit for the Company. You’ll have a stronger position over your competitors if you show how you’re committed to CSR. This will also improve brand image and brand recognition.
CSR and Brand Image
We all know that brand image matters. Customers will choose companies from which to purchase goods or services for various reasons, and traditionally stay with those companies if they get the service or product they require at the right price. However, something which is becoming more and more important these days is how a company operates and how ethical it is. A customer who has been purchasing from a specific company for years may well be swayed towards another company if its ethical values are more in line with theirs, or if the company is seen to be more socially and/ or environmentally responsible. This is where CSR is increasingly relevant in today’s business world; people will lean towards brands which share their values and priorities.
It’s not enough nowadays for companies to simply employ people, generate profit and pay relevant taxes. Companies are seen as having a responsibility to society and an obligation to contribute to the communities they operate in. CSR should be viewed as an essential component of a business strategy and companies should publicise their CSR policies and actions to generate more interest and recognition among consumers, leading to a stronger brand image and increased brand equity.
CSR as Environmental, Ethical and Charitable Responsibility
Sustainability is often linked to CSR, and first we’ll look at environmental factors. Laws have changed and many larger industries and companies now need to consider their greenhouse emissions, but alongside this is the issue of a carbon footprint. Recently there have been big campaigns for supermarkets to reduce their plastic packaging, and other measures are being promoted by supermarkets to reduce their environmental impact and encourage customers to do likewise, such as Morrison’s trialling a paid-for paper bag as opposed to the 5p plastic bag, and certain Iceland stores giving people a 10p voucher per plastic bottle they recycle in store. Waitrose have pledged to eliminate all black packaging from their produce, given that this type of plastic is more challenging to recycle and ends up in landfill. These are all really positive steps and contribute to a better image for the companies through their CSR measures.
Ethical CSR policies have been in the headlines for many years with the not-tested on animals campaigns as well as not using child labour pledges. We all know the term ‘Fair Trade’. But how can these ethical policies enhance a company’s CSR profile? Obviously this is the ‘right thing to do’, so consider within your CSR policy the whole supply chain. Are farmers being paid a fair amount for their crops? Are the people who are working in factories being treated well? It’s not only your people directly working for your company, or the people you see every day in the office who you should consider in any company policy; it’s the wider suppliers who matter, so think about how your company impacts on the lives of others.
Another strand of CSR is Philanthropic. You’ll automatically think of charitable donations, but this can go further, such as supporting local projects and getting involved in improving a community. Many of your employees will live locally, so by supporting Community projects you’re making a difference to areas which affect and matter to them. This increases employee engagement. There are other ways to get involved; for example, many companies will have a Charity of the Year. Make sure people know about it by asking the charities you support to publicise your donations, and also get your local communities involved with fundraising events, and inform the media of these. Charitable giving not only makes people feel that they’re helping and contributing in some small, yet easy way, but it is such a positive thing for the beneficiaries. It can make a huge difference to the lives of those supported by the charities.
CSR and Employees
Sustainability in terms of recruiting, training and retaining staff is another consideration when looking at CSR policies. If we want employees to be engaged with and committed to their Company, then acting responsibly, as well avoiding less ethical practices and alliances, are ways of encouraging the right-fit employees to come to your team.
We’ve already looked at ethical CSR extending beyond your employees, but don’t forget your people too. You want to treat them fairly, offer good wages and conditions, create opportunities for a variety of people to join the Company, and then treat them right on the job. Offer benefits and incentives, flexible working and other Rewards as appropriate. And look after their wellbeing in all ways, including financial, emotional and social.
A Company can increase positive feelings in the workplace by involving its employees in charitable activities; fundraising and days out supporting chosen charities, such as volunteering on a kids retreat. These ideas provide employees with a feel-good factor and let them see where the money is being spent and how much it is helping others. In turn this increases employees’ feeling of wellbeing in the workplace and that they’re doing something meaningful, as well as aiding their personal growth. Encourage employees to think creatively about this and generate ideas to help others more.
CSR and Company Economics
For a Company, financially it makes sense to increase CSR levels. Acting responsibly in terms of environmental sustainability such as considering the Company’s carbon footprint, or using less packaging, will reduce costs. It’s an opportunity for your Company to look at its processes and methods, and you may be surprised at what savings you can make. Again, get employees involved and motivated to make their workplace one which sets a positive example in the industry.
In addition, charitable contributions can be offset against corporation tax, so surely it’s a no-brainer! There are different rules depending on whether it’s sponsorship of, or a donation to a charity, so always get appropriate financial advice. While we want to be altruistic, if it makes business sense as well, why wouldn’t we look to enhance contributions to and engagement with CSR at every level of the company?
CSR is fundamentally important in so many ways. It should be carefully considered and not just implemented for the sake of it or solely to look good as a company. If you’re going to implement any policy then be clear about its desired outcome and how it will impact your people. An overriding goal in business should be having all employees say who they work for before their job title, and a carefully constructed CSR policy can really engage employees and contribute towards this aim.
If your Company isn’t yet pursuing its CSR program to the full, then maybe it’s time to consider some of the factors above and get more involved. We can’t change the world alone, but together we can achieve so much more. For further ideas and advice, email me at or and I’d be delighted to talk through some ideas with you. #Helpushelpyouhelpothers
By Clare Halfpenny