Kampala, Uganda – One of my favorite American business proverbs is that “We can both do well and do good.” This refers to the concept that it is possible for us to make a profit while engaging in ethical behavior and helping the community.
Implementing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme can be a good way to help the communities where your business operates, as well as promote your company. Today, I’ll provide some more information on ways you can accomplish this.
Consumer Support of CSR Programmes
A key element of marketing is to understand our target markets. This includes learning about their demographics—such as age, gender, education, income, and cultural background; and their psychographics—such as values, interests, beliefs, and personalities. So it is important for marketers to recognize the high value that consumers place on CSR programmes.
In 2011, the Cone/Echol Global CR Opportunity Study surveyed consumers in 10 countries. Only 6% of the consumers stated that a company’s sole responsibility is making a profit for investors. Thirteen percent stated that companies should play a limited role in the community, while the remaining 81% believed, in varying degrees, that companies should actively participate in society through contributions of money and time, advocating for improvements, and modifying their operations to fit the existing needs of society and the environment.
Consider this for a moment: Of all the varying demographics and psychographics that exist in the global marketplace, 94% of those surveyed valued positive corporate involvement in society. That is a remarkable—and rare—degree of consensus. This statistic, coupled with public mistrust of many companies, demonstrates an opportunity for companies to drastically improve their reputations through community involvement. It is no surprise, then, that so many companies are becoming involved in CSR programmes.
Tips for a Successful CSR Programme
How do you create a successful CSR programme? Here are some suggestions to help you begin a programme—or improve your existing one.
Select a Programme that Fits Your Goals and Skills
Consider a programme that is appropriate for your skills and company goals. For example, as part of our CSR programme, Wilson Business Growth Consultants helps to build teams of engineering and construction professionals to improve the infrastructure of orphanages, hospitals and other community facilities. We use our skills in marketing and public relations to help promote the selected projects. This provides the opportunity to use our communications skills, professional relationships, and infrastructure knowledge to make meaningful improvements to the communities where we operate.
What are your company’s strengths and goals? How can you use them to help other people?
Choose Partners Carefully
Many projects involve cooperation with NGOs, government entities, business partners, and other stakeholders. Be sure to complete your due diligence before entering into any agreements—just as you should do before a business agreement.
Before you agree to a partnership, consider: how will the organizations complement each other’s skills, networks, and other resources? How are the other organizations viewed in the community? Do they have legal, ethical, or other concerns that could hurt your company’s reputation? Will all of the organizations be able to keep their promises pertaining to their project?
Include the Community
Regardless of whether you partner with other organizations or lead the project within your firm, be sure to involve the community in selecting the best project. Many times, people who are well-intentioned fail to involve community members, resulting in projects that are not appropriate.
What issues create the biggest challenges for the community? What projects would most benefit the community? Instead of starting a new project, can you support an existing project that needs help to grow? What are the implementation and maintenance costs of the project? After the project is completed, who will maintain it?
Create an Oversight Committee
CSR programmes—whether done within your company alone or with a larger partner programme—should include a strong oversight policy and committee. This will help to avoid misuse of funds, which could cause serious ethical problems and crisis communications situations for your firm.
Who will review financial information, progress reports, and other important data? How often will you have meetings? What recourse will you implement for problems that arise? How will you address ethics complaints?
Involve Your Employees
Present employees with three to five potential projects, then allow them to vote on the one that your company will undertake. By including employees in the decision making process, you will help them to feel more excited about the effort.
What projects are exciting to your team? How can you engage their skills and interests in this project? How can you help them to develop skills that will contribute to their professional development?
Think Beyond Money
For small companies, making large financial contributions may not be possible. If you don’t have money to spend, consider donating your services, hosting events in your facility, or other non-monetary contributions.
For example, I know a small electrical engineering company that cannot make financial contributions yet, but they volunteered to rewire the electricity for an orphanage in Kampala, using extra supplies that they had available.
What skills and resources can your team share? Are there items that you are wasting that could help someone else?
Before undertaking a large project, try a smaller one. Consider a low budget, one-time project, instead of committing to a long-term project at the beginning. This will help you to gain experience and develop best practices before doing a larger, more intense project.
How much time can your team spend on the project? What goals do you have, and how will you measure your level of success?
Commit to a Long-Term Effort
Once you have gained experience with smaller CSR projects that fit well with your company’s goals and skills, choose a long-term project or cause for your company. This will help you to have greater impact, and it will help your company to become identified with the cause or program, which can be a valuable element of your brand image.
Are there shared concerns or issues that are faced by the various geographic regions where you operate, or the target markets you serve? How can your company use its skills and resources to help with those issues?
Promote the Project
It’s important to let people know about your project, both for the purposes of increasing support for the cause and for promoting your company’s involvement in the community. We have discussed components of the promotional mix in previous articles; select the ones that work best for your programme.
Who do you want to know about your programme? What information should they know? Will you ask them for their participation in the programme?
Consider Creating a Foundation
After you gain some experience with smaller projects, consider creating a non-profit foundation associated with your company. Explore the potential tax credits and other benefits that would help to maximize the impact your CSR program funds have in the community.
Hope Wilson, CPSM, is president of Wilson Business Growth Consultants, a firm that provides international business strategy and communications services. Specializing in infrastructure development, Hope has received 12 international awards for her work. Have a question about marketing? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org