By Martha Kool, Senior Associate
Corporate Social Responsibility is the concept of companies proactively taking charge of the impact their work has on society and the environment. More specifically, it refers to the mindset and practices an organisation has in place to make a positive contribution to its community. This is often altruistic and well-intentioned, although that hasn’t always been the case – and many cynics still accuse corporates of ‘greenwashing’.
Outdated practices and the close links between PR and CSR have resulted in weariness and scepticism. It often seems as though companies’ CSR policies are merely a component of publicity campaigns, fuelled by the desire for commercial gain, rather than genuinely charitable motives.
However, when CSR is implemented with authenticity and conviction, it can greatly strengthen a company’s position, value and overall health. The policies an organisation adopts often stem from a wider sense of purpose. Having a concise purpose which lays the groundwork for both a company’s day-to-day business and its wider input in the community, creates a true sense of character. This comes in handy when communicating with the public, but also – possibly more importantly – when it comes to building a team and attracting talent.
Micro and macro
To use an example close to home, Nudge Factory’s charitable sibling, Nudge Foundation, was established with a mission to advance the education of the public in community cohesion and to promote social inclusion for the public benefit. Nudge Factory supports the Foundation with 2.5% of its annual profit, as well as the shared use of staff.
This charity was borne out of our founder, Az Chowdhury’s, commitments and causes close to his heart. Although we say so ourselves, there is a genuine and heartfelt purpose to it. And there’s no doubt that the reputation built on this is part of the reason we have the team that we do today.
Looking further afield, there are endless examples of global organisations giving something back. This often comes in the form of environmental measures – Coca Cola made major changes to its supply chain which aimed to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by this year. Google has committed more than £1billion to renewable energy projects.
Causes can also be more personal. Netflix, for example, offers its staff a whole 52 weeks of parental leave. Then there are companies like TOMS, which for every pair of shoes purchased, donates a pair to a child in need. They’ve donated over 60 million.
Would these companies be where they are today if they didn’t engage in these drives to give back to the world? Or, more pertinently, if they’d faked or exaggerated them for publicity? In a social media era when organisations are closer to and more open with people than ever, surely it would do more damage than good to try to cheat or shortcut CSR. People are wiser to the sugar-coating that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ than they ever have been. They want to see real, meaningful contributions to society from companies big and small – just like they do from celebrities, and even their own family and friends.
So, a note to those running organisations. Find a purpose you really believe is worthwhile, stick to it, and mean it. CSR is no longer a desirable add-on, it shows the outside world what you believe in, and when people see that, a company can grow its triple bottom line – putting people and planet alongside profit.