Corporate social responsibility implies the need for organizations to develop sustainability by giving back to the community, economy and ecosystem. This focus area helps organizations develop accountability with respect to helping improve their communities, societies and doing this through carefully and meaningfully planned initiatives. This way, all their members can actively participate. Focused interventions targeting environmental and social betterment help the internal ecosystem come together to do their bit for the greater good.
Corporate social responsibility helps build the organization’s brand, attract new employees, investors and customers – alike, and contribute thereby to business success. What is also a common outcome of having an agenda for corporate social responsibility within the organization is retaining top talent – to many of whom initiatives like this matter significantly. To the world at large – an organization’s activities and how they conduct themselves with respect to the environment matter. For many, it is important to understand what the organization is doing to be sustainably profitable. The definition of business success has widened to consider these angles as well.
There are multiple ways in which organizations can do little or big things to be more responsible. Some ways could include:
(i) being environmentally conscious,
(ii) making ethical business decisions and moves,
(iii) having allies in the teams to promote inclusivity,
(iv) being more meritocratic and ensuring all employees are treated fairly and equally,
(v) having policies that help build workplace respect into the DNA of the teams, and
(vi) even educating customers on things that matter by being a brand partner.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but it is a starting point. Most of the suggestions listed here are easy to start thinking along the lines of and implementing within teams.
Building corporate social responsibility into the organization’s engagement plans is one of the quickest ways of encouraging employees to think of giving back to the community. This could be done through:
(i) donation drives around festivals or even seasons like monsoon and winters,
(ii) taking volunteers to charities and centers where help is sought and doing what is needed there,
(iii) contributing monetarily to help institutions or causes that need that kind of assistance,
(iv) organizing cleaning drives of areas around the office premises to make more green spaces that contribute to environmental betterment,
(v) participating in carpooling, cycling, tree plantation drives with the entire team,
(vi) conducting volunteer led education seminars/ webinars on topics of interest for the society at large.
What is important to remember is in order to be genuine and authentic, it is important not to plan these activities as a one time thing and plan activities that can be sustainably done through the course of the year. Plantation drives can be followed up with visits to the area to check on the progress of one’s efforts. Cleaning drives can be followed up with partnering with regulatory agencies to impose fines to defaulters. This shows sustained betterment. Following up with the NGOs to track progress of the causes to which monetary donations were made show that we were not dispensing money as a shortcut but are truly involved in improving a situation. We saw that when we did all of that, these activities garnered a lot more willing participants than normal. People wanted to see their efforts were significant, impactful and long lasting. We gave them that validation.
A simpler way of ensuring minimal-effort authenticity is picking the causes that best align with the organization’s business goals, values, mission and culture. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Goals would be a good place to start for first timers. Having multiple, mismatched initiatives through the year also affects employees’ participation and ability to commit and contribute with the organization.
The trick to not make this overwhelming or forced – both of which are counter-purpose to the actual cause – is to start with small, doable and reasonable goals and initiatives and compound that over the years. The size of the organization could also play a role in being socially impactful but waiting for the industry or others to catch up and collaborate is not necessary. To build a credible corporate social responsibility practice and agenda, it may be wise to start with making ethical decisions and moves. That alongside building strong, inclusive and high-performing teams where there is mutual respect would help get the ball rolling.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Nivedita is the Head of People Function at Mudrex. She comes with nearly 14 years of experience in creating sustainable and meaningful people practices across organizations. Nivedita is an alumna of XLRI Jamshedpur, having completed her Human Capital Management certification with them.