Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.
CSR is a concept with many definitions and practices. The way it is understood and implemented differs greatly for each company and country. Moreover, CSR is a very broad concept that addresses many and various topics such as human rights, corporate governance, health and safety, environmental effects, working conditions and contribution to economic development. Whatever the definition is, the purpose of CSR is to drive change towards sustainability.
The UK Government defines CSR in the following way, “CSR is the business contribution to our sustainable development goals. Essentially, it is about how business takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates – maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides. Specifically we see CSR as the voluntary actions that business can take over and above compliance with minimum legal requirements, to address both its own competitive interests and the interests of the wider society.”
Companies will need to approach CSR strategically, as a viable component of their overall business strategy, along with marketing, branding, research and development, innovation, talent management, and operations.
This strategy needs to be defined as clear as possible with a future goal in mind.
You will need to build solid support for the strategy before you go about defining what you want to achieve with this strategy. It is key to this strategy to get the support and participation from as many high profile executives in the organisation and to identify and engage these people that are passionate about CSR within the business. Once you have this support in place it will be easier for you to define the CSR Strategy for your business.
The CSR Strategy will act as the positioning document for the responsible business practice of your company. Your stakeholders and the public will expect a visionary document that shows ambition and goals.
CSR MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
After defining the strategy your next task will be to set up the CSR Management system. The management system of CSR within your business will outline what you actually need to do to make your strategy happen and to produce results.
The next step after the successful set up of the management system is the reporting of the first results of your companies CSR activities. This is called CSR reporting. Companies usually report on an annual basis. This CSR reporting is really the first test whether you and your team have created something interesting and worth reporting for your stakeholders.
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT & COMMUNICATION
Stakeholder Engagement and Communication is the area, which keeps all of these areas together and connected. Without engaging your stakeholder on a continuous basis there is no real long term value in building a CSR Strategy, a report or communicating what you as an organisation have been doing. When considering CSR and your stakeholders you need to appreciate that one CSR solution or strategy will not suit all stakeholders. Remember what you consider to be ‘remarkable steps’ may not be perceived the same by your stakeholders.
Your operational teams cannot avoid their responsibilities to CSR, for it is often operational failures which are at the root of environmental disasters and pollution problems. The activities of these teams can lead to your business being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. So as a leader your role is to guide the business to consider all of these components of CSR whenever they make a significant business decision.
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