Corporate social responsibility is the new buzzword every business wants in its mission statement. Stating that your business is committed to corporate social responsibility, however, is only worthwhile if you can demonstrate it is. This guide explains what corporate social responsibility is, what its purpose is, and how to measure it. Plus, to help inspire your corporate social responsibility programme, it includes lots of examples of corporate responsibility in action.
- What is corporate social responsibility?
- What is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?
- How to measure corporate social responsibility
- Inspiring examples of corporate social responsibility in action
- Implementing corporate social responsibility
What is corporate social responsibility?
When organisations define themselves as being socially responsible they are committing themselves to understanding the positive and negative economic, social and environmental impact that their business has on the societies in which it operates. They then look to maximise the positives, minimise the negatives and rid the organisation of any unfair methods regarding human rights, environmental damage and operations and employment practices.
In plainer English, this means that socially responsible companies look at how they are impacting on these three key, often overlapping, areas:
Socially responsible companies regularly assess what they are doing to improve the local economies in which they operate, and they look at how their actions might damage them. Job creation, for instance, is one way firms can enrich the local economy, but choosing a cheaper foreign supplier over a local one can harm it. Socially responsible firms look to take action to try to ensure that their positive impacts on the economy outweigh the negatives. They may, for example, work with local suppliers to see whether they can find an affordable way of supplying them in the future.
Socially responsible companies regularly assess what they are doing to improve the societies they operate in, and they consider when their actions may harm them. Encouraging workers to fundraise for or volunteer for a local charity, for example, is of benefit to society, but making redundancies is detrimental to it. Socially responsible companies look to take action to try to ensure that their positive impacts on the local community outweigh the negatives. They may, for example, help people that they’ve made redundant find new work elsewhere or report a factory they use when they discover it is using underage workers, and cease working with it.
Socially responsible companies regularly assess what they are doing to improve the environment and acknowledge how they might be damaging it. Switching their delivery vehicles from petrol to fully electric, is one way of reducing their carbon footprint, for example, but relying on fossil fuels to power their heating systems will negatively impact on it. Socially responsible companies look to take action to try to ensure that their positive impacts on the environment outweigh the negatives. They may, for example, join a carbon off-setting scheme.
What is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?
Companies that commit to corporate social responsibility do so because it shows that they care, not just about turning a profit, but also about the wider communities in which they exist. This in turn makes it easier for these companies to attract new talent and retain existing talent and to gain new customers. It also makes it easier to win over investors and impress other stakeholders. A socially responsible organisation is also more likely to be portrayed in a good light by the media.
Having an excellent record of corporate social responsibility will increasingly give you the edge over your competitors. Let’s say you’re applying for a tender and your company is slightly more expensive than the competition. You may be awarded the contract because you have better corporate social responsibility credentials.
How to measure corporate social responsibility
Not only do you have to say that you are a socially responsible company, you also have to prove that you are one. When it comes to how to measure corporate social responsibility, there are a few different indicators you can use to show that you are doing a lot more than just box ticking, including:
Demonstrate how your corporate social responsibility has improved year-on-year by comparing the number of hours members of your workforce spent volunteering for a charity or social enterprise last year to this. Other annual comparisons could include: funds raised for charity; job creation; the amount of carbon-offset; increase in local supplier use; reductions in carbon emissions; or a growth in energy generated by solar panels.
Just as you can bring in outside agencies to measure how well you invest in the professional development of your workforce, you can hire a consultancy to measure the extent of your social responsibility.
Use the guidance provided by ISO 26000
Aimed at all companies regardless of location, sector or size, ISO 26000 is a global guidance document that helps organisations to define what social responsibility is and how to action socially responsible principles.
Global and national indices
Apply to be included in important indices measuring the corporate social responsibility credentials of different businesses, such as the Corporate Knights 2020 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World.
Don’t be shy. If you’re having a positive impact on your local economy, community and environment, shout about it. Post photos, videos and articles about your socially responsible initiatives on your website, on social media and corporate literature. Try to get outside media involved too – editors love a good news story.
Survey your workforce, customers, and stakeholders to find out how well you are perceived when it comes to corporate social responsibility. Also, take this opportunity to find out what social, economic and environmental issues are important to them and try to align your corporate social responsibility goals with these.
Ask those organisations that your company has helped through volunteering, fundraising or green-energy initiatives, for example, to film a short video, praise you on social media or write a paragraph for your website detailing how invaluable your support has been.
Inspiring examples of corporate social responsibility in action
Organic fruit and veg delivery box company Riverford Organic produces a regular Sustainability Report in conjunction with the University of Exeter, which looks at the business’s carbon footprint. It has also committed to staying true to its organic farming principles, to never using air freight to transport its products and to making its boxes 100% plastic free by the end of 2020.
Property portal Rightmove’s corporate responsibility programme includes: fundraising initiative, On The Move, which raises awareness and money for charitable causes in the town where its head office is based, Milton Keynes; an audit of its energy usage, which has led to strategies aimed at reducing the firm’s carbon footprint; and putting everyone with line management responsibilities on a ‘Thoughtful Leadership’ course “to help them recognise unconscious bias and support fairness and equality in our culture.”
Off-shore wind energy provider Orsted is celebrating being named the world’s most sustainable company in the Corporate Knights 2020 index of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World. This was in recognition of the company’s ability to significantly grow its business, while substantially reducing its carbon emissions. Once one of the most fossil fuel intensive energy companies in Europe, it’s now on track to be carbon neutral by 2025 and its offshore wind farms, which power more than 13 million people, should be powering 50 million people by 2030.
Orsted is also supporting the charity TeachFirst to attract, train and retain great teachers for the schools that need them most. And it’s awarded over £4 million from its community benefit funds to help more than 350 social and environmental projects in the UK communities within which it operates.
Implementing corporate social responsibility
When you commit your business to becoming a socially responsible company, you benefit from creating a legal framework that defines and measures that commitment. This will impress potential investors, your stakeholders and clients and will help to attract new talent. Harper James Solicitors is experienced in drawing up a corporate social responsibility policy and can help you with all aspects of your corporate social responsibility programme.