Eight steps to make your company more socially responsible

How many irresponsible companies have actually managed to sustain their business over the long run?

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As a late entrant to the corporate world, with just a couple of decades as a stand-alone function, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs have some catching up to do. And the question that is often asked is how to make this function more relevant and proactive within your organization.

Here are eight steps to elevate the role of CSR in your company:

1. Be clear on your goals

In September 2000, world leaders met in one of the largest gatherings for the United Nations and agreed a clear set of goals to eradicate some of the planet’s major issues – from poverty and hunger, to disease, lack of shelter and education.

The set of eight goals, known as the Millennium Development Goals outlined clear objectives for the world to tackle the world’s largest problems and a deadline was set to meet these goals by 2015. Although these goals were not met, and deadlines with revised goals are now set to be achieved by 2030, significant progress was made over the 15 years.

When setting up a corporate strategy function the same rules apply. If you want to look back in the long run and see results, make sure your goals are clear, and in the short run this clarity will help align all the stakeholders towards what it is you aim to achieve.

2. Align from the top

From a top level view it is good business to be responsible, whereas if looked at purely from a financial short-term view, CSR can be looked at by a CFO as a short-term operational cost to the business. Unfortunately it is the CFOs of today who are getting a larger share of the time of the CEO and the board. Unless the CEO and board are aligned, that responsibility is important for the long term and lasting value of the organization, the CSR practitioner will struggle. One way of winning the argument and getting the alignment from the top is to ask this question: How many irresponsible companies have actually managed to sustain their business over the long run?

3. State your values

To ensure that corporate responsibility is a part of a company’s DNA, it needs to be embedded in the stated values of the organization. The stated value can answer questions about the safety of the workplace and the environment, what the value means in relation to the health and well-being of the employees and their families, and how the stated value will have an impact on the community through financial support, programs or volunteering.

4. …Then embed them into your CSR plan

Here are 5 ways to effectively embed CSR in your organization: 1. Make sure your top leadership (Chairman or CEO) clearly articulate the company’s commitment to corporate citizenship. 2. Make sure you have the right structure in place with the right Executive officers in key positions to manage and monitor company’s citizenship strategy and performance. 3. Engage your stakeholders. 4. Develop comprehensive corporate citizenship reports outlining social, environmental risks and opportunities for the business. 5. Link compensation to attainment of corporate citizenship goals and targets.

5. Make sure there is strong corporate governance

The corporate governance of tomorrow is beyond regulatory frameworks and codes of best practice. It calls on corporate boards and management to actively engage stakeholders, including critics, and to face today’s economic, social, and environmental issues while monitoring and preparing to address those approaching in the longer term.
Companies have gone as far as forming a corporate responsibility committee in its board that regularly monitors activity in the company and considers both current and future social and environmental issues material to the company.

6. Stay connected

We live in a globally connected world, and this has had a significant impact on consumer demand. Our socially conscious consumers today are younger and think that companies should support the environment, and furthermore are willing to pay more for socially responsible products and services. Even employees of today are willing to accept significant pay cuts to work for companies that are committed to CSR, or that make a social or environmental impact. If a company is connected it must adapt its business to be more responsible simply to attract and retain employees as well as customers.

7. Aim to create collective impact

Going it alone is a recipe for failure. Coordinate your efforts so that each stakeholder is completing the full picture without overlap or duplication, and make sure there is constant communication between the various stakeholders, along with easily shareable and measurable performance indicators. This is a key ingredient for success.

8. Never give up:

Elevating CSR in your organization takes determination and effort. It’s a journey. By the year 2100 the world population is expected to double, reaching over 14 billion people. It is our duty to act responsibly to sustain what we have today for future generations, so never give up.

Note: The author serves as the vice president of marketing and corporate responsibility for SEDCO Holding Group, a Saudi-based wealth management firm.