By Guest Contributor Sangeeta Waldron
Author of Corporate Social Responsibility is Not Public Relations, Sangeeta Waldron, explains the business benefits of CSR and how to build it into your strategy,
Running a business is always about making a profit, and in my new book, Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Public Relations, you’ll learn from the interviews I conducted with business leaders and change-makers that being a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)-led business can be profitable.
It has become an established part of the global landscape, with companies throughout the world abiding by the United Nations Global Compact and many governments starting CSR initiatives. It is now considered a critical part of a company’s performance and reputation; and has become an important issue for its investors and management. Business leaders are realizing that an effective corporate social responsibility goal can be much more than a feel-good public relations (PR) release for prospective customers, employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders; it can have a significant and positive impact on the bottom line.
The IBM Institute for Business Value in 2018 surveyed a group of 250 business leaders worldwide and found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) were focused on CSR activities to create new revenue streams. In addition, more than half (54 percent) of the surveyed business leaders believed that their companies’ CSR activities are already giving them an advantage over their top competitors!
Now, many businesses across different sectors have begun to publicly report CSR-related activities to show their interest, investment and commitment to society. A company with strong CSR values will have a high degree of transparency and enjoy greater trust, which will be naturally attractive to consumers and employees. This also means the senior management team understands the value of non-financial issues to a company’s valuation.
When a business or brand puts sustainability authentically at the centre of its business and strategy, it will automatically gain respect in the marketplace. This in turn will generate positive word-of-mouth, influence higher sales, enhance employee loyalty and attract better talent. Moreover, CSR activities that focus on sustainability issues can lower costs and improve efficiencies in the long term.
There is enough proof that when your CSR initiatives are set, and are firmly integrated with your brand values and business strategy, they help a business create the right kind of partnerships and collaborations. Sustainable business values act as a moral compass, enhancing trust with your workforce and fostering brand loyalty with your customers.
HOW TO BUILD IT INTO YOUR STRATEGY
It is important to recognize that having a raft of CSR programs, is just the first step, as most corporate efforts to date have been neither strategic nor well communicated. To be effective—and to reap all the potential benefits—companies need to do more than simply doing good in their communities. They will also need to approach CSR strategically, as a viable component of their overall business strategy, along with marketing, branding, research and development, innovation, talent management, and operations.
Nothing about creating a sustainable business should be complicated; the principles are easy enough to get a handle on and successfully execute. It’s important that CSR initiatives and values go beyond ‘doing good’ and that they aim to tell a company’s story, which is very much part of the brand story. Your CSR values need to connect to the organization’s core business purpose and strategy in a way that makes intuitive sense.
To be effective, CSR goals must be aligned with two things:
• Core business objectives
• Core competencies of the firm
For these initiatives to be successful, they must be founded in sincerity and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the greater good—individually, locally, and globally. In order to pass the test of time, they must uphold this precept unconditionally, in both good times and bad.
Your business can create an effective corporate social responsibility programme that is strategic and sustainable using seven simple steps that I outline in the book. I share two of the seven here:
BUILD YOUR STRATEGY AROUND YOUR COMPANY’S CORE COMPETENCIES
There are many worthy causes a company can choose to support, but without focus and alignment with what your business already does, the chosen CSR efforts will not be effective. If a company has strengths, research and knowledge in a specific area, supporting a project that aligns with that expertise can help generate new customer visibility and revenue streams.
STRONG, SUSTAINABLE PARTNERSHIPS BREED SUCCESS
Partnerships let you draw on the capabilities of other networks that have expertise in different fields. Connecting with partners who have the same values can help you develop thoughtful CSR initiatives faster and more affordably than trying to create opportunities on your own.
Creating and aligning the CSR strategy will unify your business efforts, giving them much more power than if they remain a random mishmash of disparate initiatives. And once your CSR and business strategy is in place, you’ll be able to move to the next step: leveraging the power of your brand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SANGEETA WALDRON Sangeeta Waldron is a multi-award-winning PR professional. She has been a contributing editor for different news platforms specializing in sustainability and corporate social responsibility, where some of her stories have been published by the United Nations. In 2009, Sangeeta founded her own London based communications agency, Serendipity PR & Media, and guest lectures at Coventry University on journalism, ethics, global society, social media and PR. Sangeeta started out her career writing speeches for a previous UK Prime Minister and Ministers. She has worked at the top level with global brands, which includes – The Economist Group; The Times Education Supplement; Mayor of London; Cass Business School; and charities such as the Gaia Foundation, National Federation of Women’s Institutes and Breast Cancer Campaign. In August 2019, Sangeeta published her first business book, The PR Knowledge Book with Business Expert Press. A regular international speaker, she often moderates a panel discussion for Asian Voice newspaper that supports British Asian women in business.
The world is at a tipping point – climate change, plastic pollution, bush fires, disappearing forests, a global pandemic and explosive conversations about diversity and inclusion. Now, more than ever, it is important for all types of businesses to have authentic Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives that are not a publicity spin. This book demonstrates that CSR is the future of business.
The book, Corporate Social Responsibility is Not Public Relations, contains 15 global inspirational interviews with thought leaders and entrepreneurs, including David Katz, CEO of Plastic Bank; Lois Acton, mentored by Anita Roddick, founder of the Bodyshop, Fred Huguez, who escaped the LA gang culture about the essence of sustainability, and more. These interviews within every chapter, along with the research, show there is international public support for business to do better and that CSR is driving investment. This is the time for all types of business to have CSR as the lifeblood for all their customers and employees.