Turning CSR into a Profit Centre

08 Oct 2019

For business and individuals alike there is, within many, the desire to do good. But is there an opportunity to Do Good by Doing Good? My work with business in this sector leads me to believe that there is a genuine desire, but a cautious approach exists to what is realistic to expect as an outcome from a Corporate Social Responsibility program.

If your Corporate Social Responsibility program is not returning clear and measurable returns to your business it’s not as effective as it can be and you are leaving money on the table.

Most businesses will implement a CSR program for one of a number of reasons a) they either believe it is the right thing to do and seek no return, or b) they do so because it is what is expected of them and c) it’s what those in their industry are in fact doing.

The most effective CSR programs are those that provide a return to business. Very simply if there is a return to business, then those in the business are more likely to take it seriously and inject resources into growing the platform, which in return will grow the pie that there is to carve up and share. When we view CSR as a communication and business growth strategy rather than a philanthropic one, all involved in the equation benefit.

If your CSR strategy is basically confined to giving of money and time, it might be the case you have taken a philanthropic approach to your giving, which is very generous of you and no doubt appreciated by the recipients, but its unlikely to create the returns for ALL involved that exists when we get CSR right.

Does your CSR strategy assist in:

  1. The retention of the talent you would like to see;
  2. Attraction of the talent you would like;
  3. Give you brand differentiation;
  4. Open new markets?

Many business and individuals when considering their investment through CSR don't expect or even look for a return, often they comment “but that’s not why we do it, we don’t expect a return”. What sits behind that for many businesses is that they haven’t cracked the formula which generates a return.

Businesses both large and small are working out that there are many benefits to giving. Unilever Global attaches the bonuses they pay their most senior executives to the sustainability wins that the company has. Now I am guessing, those executives have more than a fleeting interest in the work of their CSR teams. You don’t have to be a large multinational though to enjoy the successes and equally you don't have to a large pool of funds to invest to enjoy the benefits.

Be it new business that you attract, the reduction in spend on utilities, change in your motor vehicle fleet, innovation driven by shared value, or well known measures such as increased staff retention, improved morale, increased brand image or higher levels of customer loyalty all of this can be achieved when you start to measure and report on your CSR beyond simply the dollars you give away.

The most effective way to start to derive a benefit from what you are already doing, is not to give more money away, there is no correlation between the size of your donation and the benefits back to business. Start by understanding the nature of the relationship you have with your partners, implement measures on the commitment you make (most businesses grossly underestimate the size of their contribution) and then attach KPI’s so that you have benchmarks against which you can measure performance.

A CSR audit is a quick way to see how effective your current strategy is and where business growth opportunities might exist.

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