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Corporate Social Responsibility Matters: How businesses can play a role in solving our social and environmental challenges

The foundation of responsible business

In an increasingly consumer-conscious era and the growing challenges of the modern world, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an indispensable part of business operations.

The end product alone is not enough to build a network of loyal consumers around it. Consumers need something more. They need to sense that the values of the company they support with their consumer choices are consistent with their own; that company profits will be used to make the world a better place.

So what exactly is CSR?

While addressing the question of what is corporate social responsibility, it is important to underline that it’s an area of business activity, which focuses on the responsible management of the company so that the company is sustainable, thus taking into account the aspect of civil and human rights, business and professional ethics, the interests of social groups and minorities, climate change and environmental pollution, etc.

Since CSR activities have a significant impact on a company’s image, their development and execution is often the responsibility of the company’s public relations department or experts connected to the field.

Why is CSR important?

Apart from considering the importance of corporate responsibility to the business community (society, environment), which is unquestionable, CSR plays a momentous role from a business perspective. This is because customers expect social involvement of companies to be an integral area of their operations. What’s more, they are also willing to contribute to these changes. This means affordability is less and less the determinant of interest in a product, with customers willing to pay more for products that are made under ethical conditions and do not negatively impact the environment. 

Additionally, knowing that a company is implementing CSR activities helps shape a group of loyal consumers, in whom the belief that everything a company offers is potentially the right choice for them. In turn, attachment to a given brand provides a great basis for building a referral system, in which it is the customers who act as intermediaries in passing on information about the company, in the implementation of the so-called “word-of-mouth marketing.” This, in turn, is much more reliable than traditional forms of advertising. 

However, loyalty is built not only in relations with the external environment. Employees who are satisfied that their own values are consistent with the company’s mission, vision and goals, of which corporate social responsibility is an integral part, will become dedicated, motivated and productive partners on the road to achieving common goals, especially when the area of CSR activities is precisely to ensure a friendly atmosphere for work and respect for employee rights. 

After all, corporate social responsibility is an opportunity to stand out from the competition and build your positive image and attract investors. Although the financial sphere is not directly part of CSR, it is inextricably linked to it. Being transparent and responsible has become a trend that brings tangible profits, although it is not talked about loudly. And since it’s a win-win situation, it’s hard to point out any contraindications to moving in this direction.

Corporate social responsibility - examples of CSR tools

Companies conducting socially responsible business use many different CSR tools – depending on the organization’s culture and business profile. However, the most common tools can include the following:

    • Employee volunteerism – This involves the integration of individual employee involvement in activities for social initiatives as part of the company’s work (employee activity or material donations, volunteering or fundraising for a selected organization).
    • Investment in sustainability – This means investing in solutions which will minimize the negative impact of the company’s operations on the environment.
    • Social campaigns – These are activities focused on changing the attitudes or behavior of a selected reference group, during which the different media channels are used as a vehicle for the message.
    • Eco-labeling and social labeling – This consists of placing labels on product packaging with information about environmental or pro-social activities.
    • Management systems – This can include Quality Management System – ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, Social Accountability System (SA 8000) and Sustainability and CSR Reporting: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or Worlds Bank’s Good Practice Manual on Effective Public Consultation.
    • Corporate governance – Is a mechanism used to control and coordinate the behavior of shareholders, who cooperate with management for greater efficiency of the tasks carried out by the company.
    • Socially Engaged Marketing (Cause Related Marketing, CRM, social marketing) – This consists of company activities which take into account both business goals and social needs.
    • Social Reports – These are publications which aim to present a company’s strategy and summarize its activities with an analysis of social, economic and environmental impact.
    • Ethical programs for employees – These are activities aimed at integrating employees around the organization’s shared values. These can include training, bonuses, awards or promotions, among others.
    • Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) – These are, for example, investments based on ethical principles and investments regarding the company’s involvement in various CSR programs.
    • Sustainable supply chain management – These are sustainability principles which should be implemented into every link in the supply chain.

Implementing CSR practices in your company, not only allows you to build a loyal community around your brand (customers, employees, contractors), but it also attracts investors, helps your business stand out from the competition and builds a positive corporate image.

This is why corporate social responsibility is so important and should be consistently developed by companies. It shouldn’t be a one-time initiative or campaign, but a permanent part of a company’s identity.

Article author: Ursula Gaiko

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