What To Think About When You Think About Social Value & ‘CSR’

Posted on the 20th November 2018

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): an approach to business that, in its infancy, was merely an afterthought that few paid serious attention to.

Presently, CSR has evolved into a concept that has become entrenched in business dialogue, with an array of benefits associated with its adoption. We are seeing a host of companies genuinely considering CSR as something that is intrinsically advantageous for businesses. Indeed, the business case has been made, with evidence for the financial opportunities CSR provides made available. Thus, businesses are becoming empowered to apply a social conscience to their overarching business direction.  

The reason that widespread adoption of CSR has been successful is because it is mutually beneficial for all parties involved. It is important for the health of the planet, as companies are striving to reduce their carbon footprint. It appeases the desires of the customer, 40% of which seek out brands who have a social purpose. And thus for businesses themselves, it facilitates opportunities for profits and growth, should they have an authentic corporate social responsibility strategy which they adhere to with conviction, and more importantly with transparency.

As with all great ideas, what corporate social responsibility means to businesses continues to develop and change. So, to keep you up-to-date, and to help you continue to stand out, here is what to think about when you are thinking about your corporate social responsibility and social impact.

Think, and Challenge Traditional CSR

Corporate social responsibility as we know it continues to influence the business landscape. As it does so, the idea that CSR exists in a subsection of an organisation, siloed to a specific department, will begin to fade away. As you will see from this article, social value goes beyond talking about cutting CO2 emissions or saving paper. These are a given and are already expected of organisations. Instead, you need to be thinking about ways of going beyond the norm, and to consider social initiatives that transcend individual departments or roles – causes that affect everyone internally within the business, as well as externally.

To do this effectively, companies need to think more innovatively about the social projects they plan to invest in. They need to implement CSR across the organisation – embedding it within all processes. What this means is that we challenge the traditional understanding of CSR, and the limitations of that, and spearhead new definitions of CSR and what they actually means for socially conscious businesses.    

Instead, Think of Sustainability as > CSR

Sustainability is about a forward-thinking strategy. It is about getting a forward-thinking point of view that is embedded in your company, which influences behaviours and decision processes.

By thinking about sustainability, rather than CSR, you begin to actively shift and adapt your business methods. This train of thought encourages you to reflect on procurement processes, your supply chain, about the technologies you are investing in, and more generally about the very infrastructure of your business.

89% of businesses acknowledge that failing to implement sustainability practices poses a risk to them, with the biggest concern being the financial impact. By thinking sustainably, you are actively mitigating those concerns, and thinking long-term about the survival of your company.

 Then you need to start thinking about abundance, the successor of sustainability, commented on by author Afdhel Aziz. This concept expands upon sustainability by stressing that while we should be embracing current technology, we should be pushing those barriers and being innovative with how they can offer solutions. This is the perspective that we should be exploring the ways we can tailor these technological advancements to combat the social challenges facing our worldwide community, to create unity and an abundance of sustainability for all.

Hint, hint. We think AI is the key.

 Think Diversity of Staff and Diversity of Thought

The diversity of staff is something that all organisations should aspire to. It shouldn’t be something that is forced, or actioned in order to meet quotas but applied because it is the best way to operate. Diversity and inclusion allows people to learn about new ways of doing things, new languages, new points of view which are then reinvested back into your organisation.

Within a business context, diversity and growth go hand-in-hand. Fundamentally, companies exist because they offer a solution, through a service or a product, to an identified problem. In the majority of instances, solutions do not come from one single person. Solutions develop, they are nurtured and evolve as a result of hard work, determination and through the development of thought. Different people invest their ideas and opinions based on their personal experiences and exposures, allowing the solution to flourish and materialise as a product or service.

Now, imagine the wealth of ideas that come from different people – derived from their exclusive experiences within society. Consider the thought opportunities when you involve people of colour, people with a disability, and people who identify with the LGBT+ community. Those unique experiences, perceptions, and life lessons equate to a greater diversity of thought. Conceivably, this explains why companies that have women on their boards experience a 42% increment in their sales and a 66% higher return on capital. We argue that diversity in business should be associated with success, so here’s how to encourage it…

We aren’t going to achieve gender diversity unless we bring men with us.

Jo Taylor - Chair of the North West KPMG Network of Women

Think About Male Advocacy

If you type in ‘Jonathan Ross’ and ‘Equal Pay‘ into Google you will come across a perfect example that highlights the role of men in advocating gender equality by promoting fairness and challenging the status quo.

Diversity and InclusionMale advocacy is an extremely prevalent theme in talks about diversity. Indeed, at the Lloyds Foundation Group’s ‘Making Gender Diversity a Reality For All’ event one of the more topical points of conversation was the role of men in promoting inclusion.

Until we get to a point where we are subconsciously hiring women based on their merits, and not because it makes for a good PR campaign, businesses need to actively compensate for the lack of women in the workplace. Men, particularly those in more senior roles, should advocate the importance of diversity for both women and the business. When thinking about your CSR strategy, we encourage you to consider how you can incentivise men to promote diversity in the workplace. One way to do this is by addressing the gender pay gap.

Think About Your Company’s Gender Pay Gap

With companies who have over 250 employees legally obliged to publish reports on their gender pay gap, accountability has reached the boardroom. Here is where men are the majority (63%), and where men can make a true difference. Fortunately, the UK’s gender pay gap is at its lowest on record, but that doesn’t mean we should become complacent.

When you are thinking about corporate social responsibility, you need to be considering ways in reducing the gender pay gap within your organisation. Here at Impact (sister company of Reason Digital), we have actively challenged the gender pay gap with outstanding results.

You can’t cherry-pick what you disclose. You can’t report on what you do well but leave out where you are having an adverse effect.

Laura Palmeiro - Senior Advisor for Sustainability Reporting at Danone.

To reap the rewards corporate social responsibility offers, trust is essential. This trust can be gained through transparency, and measuring your social value is the best way to be transparent.     

Think About the Importance of Measurement

Trust is fundamental for the success of a business. It is something that needs to exist between the organisation and all stakeholders: employees, consumers, and investors alike. In order to develop trust, the individual needs to prove that they are trustworthy. They need to offer examples that are not manipulated or skewed, but transparent and reliable. Within almost all contexts whether that be in the quality of a service, or with a piece of academic research, evidence is required – and corporate social responsibility is no different.

More and more there are the expectations of companies to show their social impact. They need to be able to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. It used to be easy to say you are socially-minded business without executing any socially minded activities. However, in the modern-day age technological advancements spare no one, and with the ease of online communication, only the genuine companies will succeed.

Social Value tool

Here at Impact Reporting, we are continually developing our social value reporting tool to enable you to quantify your socially impactful activities and transform them into evidence-based data. We are an easy-to-use, cloud-based SaaS, that streamlines the way you capture, monitor, and produce real-time reports on your social and environmental impact. By automatically converting your activities into meaningful social value data, It’s quicker and easier to report on your social impact alongside your financial reporting.  Impact enables you to increase the amount of activity, removing administrative burden from managers, and improving employee engagement.

So, ditch the manual spreadsheet, engage your workforce, create real-time social value reports and celebrate the social good that you create. Should you wish to learn more about the ways in which we can help track, monitor and report of your impact chat with us here.

About the author:

Lee Smorthit

Marketing and Social Value Executive

Following the completion of his MSc in Digital Marketing Communications, Lee joined the Impact team in 2018 to set a marketing direction for the company, and to apply his research capabilities to further develop the Impact tool, ensuring that our software as a service (SaaS) is client-friendly and accessible.

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