July 23, 2009
10 Critical Steps to CSR Success
Cycles of “negativism” from policymakers, the media or the general public about corporate business practices are nothing new. But when the going gets tough from a reputation standpoint, many companies begin searching with greater urgency for ways to rebuild trust with consumers and shift perceptions in an authentic, meaningful way. One way to accomplish this is through a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program.
At CooperKatz, we work closely with our clients to identify the nexus between their corporate mission, goals, key stakeholders and important social causes. Finding this intersection helps us design CSR programs that companies enthusiastically embrace and support – not just “at the top,” but throughout an organization. To guide our own strategic process, we’ve established “10 Principles for a Successful CSR Program” for developing and evaluating CSR opportunities.
Ideally, an effective CSR initiative:
Helps convey the essence of the company – The CSR program should be authentic and relevant to the client’s business. This tells consumers a program is genuine and not just a way for the company to generate publicity.
Appeals across core constituencies (i.e., shareholders, prospective and current employees, consumers, local policymakers, etc.) – Supporting a cause that is of interest across all core constituencies ensures a program will resonate with these audiences and drive greater support and buy-in.
Allows employees to get involved – Employees want to feel good about the company they work for, and this often means working for a company that contributes to an important cause.
Helps to build brand / company reputation – Effective and authentic CSR programs enable a company to have a different kind of conversation with its constituencies and community, while demonstrating the “human” side of business. All this can positively impact reputation.
Receives recognition for the program – Generating recognition for the program is not always the main goal of a CSR program (in fact, if a company is just in it for “publicity,” it may not resonate). But generating attention for a critical issue without doubt can (and should) generate a ‘halo’ of positive recognition for the company as well.
Addresses a significant issue / challenge – Addressing a significant / serious issue with a sustained commitment demonstrates a company’s willingness to extend beyond profit or pure self-interests. This in turn can resonate more powerfully with key audiences and influencers.
Makes a significant difference within that issue / challenge – It’s critical that the CSR program is powerful enough – and the corporate commitment great enough – to make a tangible difference. This impact can be measured in a variety of ways including increased awareness / education of the issue, funds donated to support the issue or the number of people it has directly helped.
Demonstrates the company’s responsible business practices – Actions speak louder than words. Implementing a CSR program demonstrates a company’s willingness to go beyond “lip service” and put people, time and resources against a critical cause.
Can be implemented on both the local and national level – Having the ability to implement a CSR program at both the local and national levels allows a company to make a greater impact by reaching more people, in addition to connecting more deeply with the communities in which it operates.
Provides measurable ROI – CSR programs, when done right, demand a significant investment of time, money and resources. So it’s important to have the ability to measure the program’s impact in terms of effectiveness and success. Having this information and supporting data points is important in securing continuing buy-in, both internal and external.