Employer brand, HR Trends • 3 min reading

Building a CSR Program

In these difficult times when attention is turned to the pandemic and the labour shortage, why talk about corporate social responsibility? The answer should be obvious. A company seeking to increase their CSR is a company focusing on actions that have a positive impact, and this is good for everyone. For your company, your employees, your customers, and the community. What’s more, in addition to its inherent positive effects, having a CSR program is a powerful lever for attracting and retaining talent. Find out more below.

What does corporate social responsibility mean?

Corporate social responsibility is a rather broad concept that can refer to different elements including sustainability, ethical and local sourcing, good working conditions, as well as diversity and inclusion.

In short, CSR means that a company is looking to contribute through concrete actions. It must therefore invest in a deliberate approach that will have a real impact on the world.

According to an article published in Forbes at the beginning of 2020, the trends that drove corporate social responsibility work at the time were the following:

  • The environment
  • Searching for the truth (transparency in organizations)
  • Standing with employees
  • Pursuing purpose over passion (looking for meaning and company’s mission)

While these trends have not lost their importance, the issues shifted throughout the pandemic. The health and safety of employees and of customers have become a main focus. In addition, buying local has become essential, both in terms of logistics and in the spirit of community. Many current events have also highlighted the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Thus, CSR refers to how a company governs. “It often touches every part of the business–operations, human resources, manufacturing, supply chain, health and safety, and more.”

CSR and the Employer Brand

Of course, CSR has impacts on society and the environment. But it also has positive repercussions on a company’s brand image and how they are viewed by the industry, customers, and consumers. An organization that looks to build its CSR also benefits from a reputation that is increasingly interesting to investors.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of consumers want to buy from socially responsible companies. But beware of greenwashing and performative activism, which only simulate responsible practices. You will lose your credibility. This is all the more likely as consumers become more aware and informed.

Corporate social responsibility must be based on the authenticity and transparency of organizations, in line with their true values. It must be an integral part of operations.

CSR fosters the attraction and retention of employees, who feel more engaged in companies who care. One study also indicates that 90% of individuals employed by a company with a CSR strategy are proud to work there. In companies without a CSR program, only 66% of employees claim to feel pride in their workplace.

But where to start?

It’s been evaluated that 70 % of companies want to be more socially responsible. However, only 30% have adopted a CSR strategy. Many organizations claim that this is basically because they don’t know where to start. And when it comes to getting started, there, unfortunately, isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

One of the first steps should be to analyze the culture, mission, and values ​​of your company. It’s important to build on its strengths and examine its main challenges. Don’t hesitate to involve employees who are interested in this process. This will further increase their engagement.

It’s often recommended to assign a person in your company to the CSR program. If this person isn’t working full time in this area, they’ll have to make the switch to focus on the CSR efforts permanently. Indeed, this type of initiative requires constant work to measure impact and positioning in terms of social responsibility, and to make changes and evolve when necessary. It’s not a matter of making one-time changes. The company must be fuelled by the constant desire to improve. If you need extra support, consider hiring an external consultant.

There are also several programs and certifications that can help you embark on your CSR journey. On the B-Corp certification site, you can determine your social responsibility score through an online assessment.

There are also different ISO and other certifications that recognize the involvement of organizations. In Quebec, for example, there are the Entreprise en santé and Conciliation travail-famille BNQ standards. There is an estimated $3 return for every dollar invested in work-life balance policies. This can be integrated into a CSR strategy.

If you want to take it a step further, you could also look at the UN’s 17 Goals to Transform our World.  These objectives are fully in line with the principle of corporate social responsibility.

It’s also essential to assess the ethical practices of your various partners. This also improves risk management. You’ll need to analyze your operations, products, and services to determine if you could improve these areas to achieve your CSR objectives. In addition, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion must be given priority.

Essentially, deciding to develop your corporate social responsibility means examining your company’s conscience and adopting practices that will benefit the greatest number of people while respecting your values ​​and remaining authentic.

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