Global Leadership Blog

Corporate Social Responsibility

3 Tips for Launching Corporate Social Responsibility

As the holidays come to a close, many companies all over the world are doing two things: Reviewing their 2017 performance and selecting charities to receive their official nod to holiday generosity. It’s worth asking how many of them have connected the two in developing their 2017 strategies. Corporate philanthropy isn’t just an obligation, after all; along with helping others, corporate social responsibility (CSR) offers an opportunity to inspire employees and attract new customers.

A few decades ago, no one expected companies to play the Good Samaritan. But in today’s era of “compassionate capitalism,” it’s almost de rigueur for companies to demonstrate some level of altruism, whether it’s promoting green initiatives, improving their local community, or lending their support to a global cause. Corporate social responsibility has become so hardwired into our business culture, in fact, that enterprise brands can look stingy and uncaring if they lack a robust program.

Of course, there’s something else typical of big corporations today, and that’s global expansion. And the intersection of global market entry and CSR can be a tricky one to navigate, given the different cultural priorities regarding these programs. Leaders often follow the saying “people, planet and profit” when it comes to investing in CSR but that can be a bit too simplistic on an international scale. To launch an effective program, global leaders must consider the following factors in their approach.

Figure out which buyers care about your initiatives.

While there’s been some debate on how profoundly CSR programs influence buyers, one Neilsen report showed in Italy Millennials, and Generation Z would pay more for products that were organically grown and ethically produced – And this is the trend globally. While retail slows down in Europe and North America, consumers are looking towards those products which focus on personal wellness and sustainability. In the developing world, it is still essential to ensure research and development, manufacturing and other production considers the community’s needs. Government officials and locals can block the success of global entry if specific environmental and societal criteria are not met.

Design a strategy that will ignite your workforce.

The Gallup Report for 2017 shows only 15 percent of the workforce engaged and actively engaged— a disheartening statistic. The data states that manufacturing and production are the primary cause of a lack of morale. A Corporate social responsibility program may interest your customer base, but it could indeed act as a morale booster for your workforce. The importance of a sense of meaning at one’s job has been proven time and again – and participating in a global mission can be even more galvanizing. This sense of meaning is extraordinarily powerful for remote teams, as sharing the same purpose can deepen connections between far-flung colleagues and dispersed offices.

For instance, each region might contribute toward a different local cause, such as rebuilding from a natural disaster in a struggling community – everyone will post photos and updates to the same internal site to educate and inspire others. Another option is having everyone adopt the same internal initiatives. Going green is obviously a popular one; offices can hold contests on reducing waste and packaging materials, exchange ideas on setting up carpool systems or show off their new energy-efficient lighting. Employees in Hong Kong who ordinarily might never interact with employees in Toronto will enjoy common ground that ultimately fosters deeper engagement for everyone.

Shift from CSR to Social Impact.

Particularly in today’s political and environmental climate, we need to ensure our efforts are not abstract. In touting CSR as making a social impact, everyone can relate. Leaders become advocates; employees care about making a difference. Alice Korngold wrote, “A Better World Inc.,” where she talks about how companies can make a positive social impact where governments cannot. We’ve seen this recently with the Paris Accord Agreement where hundreds of corporations have said they will uphold its principles even during the political debate.

Sometimes companies must commit to CSR that holds a personal significance for their partners. Ultimately every global company should consider the impact of corporate social responsibility initiatives on its workforce, its customers, and its communities before making a significant investment. The wrong program can go ignored by both employees and customers.

But the right program can put a halo of appeal around a brand image, inspire your workforce—and make a real global impact at the same time.

For a list of the top 20 CSR programs in 2017 and the companies they belong to, see here

Image Copyright: trueffelpix / 123RF Stock Photo 

A version of this post was first published here. 

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson