Often I hear smaller businesses and start-ups ask whether they have the capacity to implement a formal Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) program. These companies know it’s the right thing to do AND some even recognize they will enjoy the multiple benefits and measurable Return on Investment by having an integrated program, but they just don’t think they are ready.
The fact is that it’s much easier to focus on the foundation of an effective, authentic and strategic CSR program when a company is in its early stages of development. While smaller companies and start-ups might not have the capacity to engage in all aspects of CSR, such as a corporate philanthropy program, working on a solid foundation of Mission, Vision and Values will enable a company to grow its CSR programs along with profits, employees, and capacity. Business books are filled with examples of companies that started developing their Mission, Vision and Values long before they ever produced a product. Companies like New Belgium Brewing Company, Starbucks, and Salesforce are just three examples of companies that are now held up as shining examples of successful companies with embedded CSR programs – ALL of which began with an analysis of Mission, Vision and Values at the earliest stages of their corporate founding.
So, what does a fully integrated CSR program look like? Well, let’s say you are widget maker and you and your internal stakeholders have determined that your collective Vision is “A world without cancer.” I know – it seems pretty unrelated to widgets, right? But what if your Mission is then to “Create the world’s best widgets while helping to prevent and cure cancer”? OK, so how does that happen? You develop a series of corporate values aligned with your Vision and Mission. For example, your corporate values may include:
The next step then is to look at the “four pillars” of CSR (sustainability, community engagement, employee engagement, and corporate philanthropy) and to align them with your Mission, Vision and Values.
You can start with your supply chain and manufacturing process to ensure that the production of your widgets is done in compliance with your values. You probably also want to make sure that the final widget product will be safe for consumers to use (or children to chew on).
Considering your employees, perhaps you add an on-site gym or provide gym rebates or rebates to Weight Watchers or smoking cessation programs for employees who engage in healthy activities. Maybe you give employees fighting cancer (or helping out a family member battling cancer) time off with a commitment that they will be able to return to their position once in remission. Perhaps you field teams in cancer fundraising events (with the company or CEO matching donations) so that the entire company is engaged. Is there an opportunity for skills-based volunteering where your employees are given paid time off to volunteer their skills at cancer charities or treatment centers?
These are just some basic ideas as to how a company might start to align and integrate their CSR work into the business. In future blog posts we'll go deeper into the four pillars of CSR. But, for it to be authentic and reap the benefits of a strategic and integrated CSR program, it all starts with a clear organizational Mission, Vision and Values.