Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the part of a business that gives something back. However, it’s not just the conscience of the business. It’s a lot more than that. In some cases, CSR stems from a personal crusade from the CEO. Richard Branson at Virgin or Elon Musk at Tesla spring to mind. These corporate leaders are natural problem solvers whose perspectives naturally range far away from selling cars or plane tickets, leading entire companies become involved in clean energy and climate activism.
Without meaning to sound cynical, in other cases CSR is all about public image. British Petroleum haven’t always had the best reputation due to well-known accidents, but they counter this with skillful use of CSR strategies like sponsoring training programs and cultural events.
Coca Cola is another great example. They often attract adverse publicity due to concerns about the health effects of drinking Coke and environmental protests about water usage. In response, the company has doubled down on efforts to become the most water-efficient global corporation along with campaigns to empower women in the developing world.
Driving Improved Business Performance Across the Board
Most corporations fall between these two poles. For them, CSR is all about becoming a more effective organization. Think of it this way. In everyday life, sociable, outgoing people are usually more popular and tend to be happier. Corporations try to adopt socially beneficial policies for very similar reasons.
By focusing attention on broader social or environmental goals, corporations can find ways to reform how they are organized and they can discover more about how they interact with the societies that purchase their products.
The end result is improved corporate performance and better customer relations, so it’s no surprise that major companies almost always have a CSR division. Being a good global citizen is simply good for business.
However, all that sounds fine, but it’s a little abstract. Let’s look at some of the most innovative ways that corporate leaders are pushing the boundaries of conventional CSR to see if other organizations can emulate their successes.
Finding New Ways to Tell the Corporate Social Responsibility Story
We mentioned Virgin earlier via Richard Branson’s personal role, and his company is a great example of CSR innovation in action. Virgin are at the forefront of efforts to communicate CSR goals to the wider public.
They know that ethically sound policies need to be communicated to audiences if corporations are to reap the benefits. As with many other leadership challenges, it’s all about displaying great storytelling skills.
Abandoning traditional CSR documents as too inaccessible, Virgin has embraced 360 degree video technology to deliver its annual CSR report, telling stories about their policies to promote young entrepreneurs or providing technological support for disabled children.
Brewing giant Heineken have had a similar idea, creating online games to tell people about their corporate social responsibility goals and enlisting the help of a Dutch rap artist to get the message out to millennials.
Levi’s has taken a similar route, funding skate parks across the world that have a community benefit and make a great setting for eye-catching video content.
A New Age of Cutting Edge CSR
These examples demonstrate how forward-thinking companies are moving away from old-fashioned forms of CSR like philanthropy towards more practical, community or web-based initiatives that can be communicated using the latest technology. In theory, the community benefits from the CSR spending while the company improves its profile among younger consumers. That’s the kind of synergy you just don’t get by donating to Oxfam or the Smithsonian Museum.
It’s a great time to be a dynamic corporate leader, particularly if you have a youthful workforce that you need to keep engaged and passionate about their roles. That’s something new for CSR as well. As it has matured, CSR has become a great way to boost morale and recruit talented younger individuals.
So, on the International Day of Charity, there are plenty of great reasons for corporate leaders to embrace Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s an exciting time, and there is no shortage of global issues. From climate change to youth unemployment, corporations can really make a difference.