Shifts in Thinking in the Impact Revolution

Posted by on Jun 18, 2018 in Corporate Citizenship, Great Companies, Strategic Planning | Comments Off on Shifts in Thinking in the Impact Revolution

Shifts in Thinking in the Impact Revolution

Today’s businesses are operating in the Impact Revolution similar to how we refer to the Industrial Revolution, a time in history when how we did business changed forever. For some companies, corporate social responsibility is an integral part of their overall business and brand and has been for some time. For others, they are just getting started. The point is, we live in a day and age when corporate citizenship matters – to employees, to buyers, to investors and to the general population.

For companies still evaluating if or how to jump in, it is important to consider how the concept of corporate social responsibility has shifted over time. For everyone else, it is a good reminder.

From Sustainability to Social Impact: For many companies, especially early on, CSR and sustainability were synonymous. The responsibility was about preserving resources and operating in a way that was conducive to the environment. Today, CSR encompasses environmental, economic and social responsibility and refers to businesses’ responsibility to act ethically and consider their impacts on the community at large.

From Philanthropy to Partnership: Successful business leaders often think in terms of ROI. The same is true for CSR. It forces a shift in thinking from simply writing checks, to having sustained impact, and for many, that means moving beyond philanthropy to partnership. Take for example Stella Artois’ partnership with Together they strive to provide access to safe water for 3.5 million people in the developing world by 2020.

Deep Pockets to Deep Impact: Smart investments can be as significant as large ones. Such was the case for Dupaco, a regional credit union, that took a more focused approach to maximize their impact. In partnership with The HEART (Housing Education and Rehabilitation Training) Program which provides a hands-on learning experience for young, disadvantaged teens, they are helping to transform local neighborhoods into safe and desirable communities for working families while creating economic opportunities for first-time home buyers. You can easily see how this partnership has the potential for deep, and ongoing impact in their community.

Volunteering to Skilled Volunteerism: CSR is about more than giving money. It is also about giving time. Nonprofits rely on volunteers, but the ones that can articulate a need for skilled volunteerism get the greatest benefit from their corporate partners. We’re talking about professional service companies contributing their time and talents on a pro bono basis, construction companies building homes and schools for those in need and business leaders serving as mentors.

From Team Building to Talent Acquisition and Retention: For many businesses, volunteerism is as basic as developing a policy for volunteer time off, or encouraging involvement in an annual day of service. However, more companies are seeing their CSR programs as both a differentiator and a benefit. According to the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 71% of employees want their company to provide opportunities for them to help make a positive impact on the company’s social and environmental commitments and 88% of them confirm their job is more fulfilling when they do. When measuring the impacts of CSR, having a positive social impact is often the ultimate goal, however it is important to remember that businesses cannot have an impact – in business or the community – without first attracting and retaining talent.

From Responsible Business Operations to Taking a Stand: While some companies were still trying to figure all of this out, others were going above and beyond. In fact, we saw 2017 redefine responsible business operations to mean taking a stand or taking action. Companies can be a force for good, and that now includes taking a stand on issues tied to their values. In the same Cone study noted above, employees confirmed this: 78% of employees expect companies to stand up for important social justice issues.

From Big Company to Any Company: The strategic principles behind CSR apply to any company, any size, starting with tapping into a company’s goals, values and purpose. Every company got into business for a reason, with a problem they sought to solve, or a need they hoped to meet. In addition to this becoming the foundation of their business, it serves as the basis of any corporate social responsibility program.

Which brings us to the last, but most important shift.

From Tactic to Strategy: So regardless of your company size or strategy, corporate social responsibility is more effective with a plan. If you’re fine writing a check or volunteering time, that is okay. Some effort will have more impact than no effort at all. But if you want to build an effective, sustainable CSR program, you want to approach it as strategically as possible. It must be an integral part of your business, something consistent with your values and your brand, something that will a positive impact on your stakeholders including consumers/clients, employees, investors AND your community — then you should have a plan.

Originally published on the CSR hub blog May 29, 2018.

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