Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now more important than ever.
Before the pandemic, people were already looking for a different approach, wanting a world where business is more than just about making money. Generally consumers want transparency; they want specifics about fair trade, good working conditions, environmental responsibility and more.
Of course, it’s true that some people won’t care. However, a growing majority do. Whether they are buying as a business or as a consumer, they are looking for companies that are about more than just the money. They want to buy responsibly. They don’t want to be fobbed-off with greenwash; they want to know what you are doing as a business, and what that means. And in many cases, they are willing to pay slightly more for it.
What activities count as CSR?
CSR can be undertaken in many different ways. For example, financial donations, resource donations (e.g. product, time, staff, etc.), offering pro-bono work for charities, co-marketing to promote a charitable cause, and having specific, clear, publicly announced ethics (e.g. carbon zero, LGBTQ-friendly, vegan, no investment in drugs or weapons etc.)
As well as being good for business these approaches can help build your brand, boost staff morale and make a positive contribution.
Let look at a few examples of varying approaches to CSR.:
Donating in-line with your brand
There are many organisations which donate something allied to their brand. This can give a fun and / or memorable message for the organisation. For example, Who Gives A Crap’s tagline “toilet paper that builds toilets” tells you what their business is and what their charitable contribution is! And they donate a very generous 50% of their profits to help build toilets in developing countries where access to sanitation is limited.
Green Tomato Cars is another ethical brand, providing an eco-friendly car service in London. They aim to do their bit towards improving air quality in London and were the first operators in London to use the Toyota Prius. Not only that, they offset their unavoidable emissions by supporting The Ugandan Improved Cookstoves project. This subsidises the sale of charcoal cookstoves and fuel-efficient biomass across Uganda which improves cooking conditions and reduces indoor air pollution.
Give a financial donation for every transaction
A straightforward and easy way to practise CSR is to donate a percentage or a given sum to a charity or organisation with every transaction. For example, at Bidwedge, we are all mad about cats, so we partnered with Born Free. When changing your unwanted foreign currency back into Sterling, you can opt to donate the full amount to Born Free (via the Bidwedge platform) and we’ll donate 100% of our handling fee, or if you’d prefer to keep the cash yourself, we’ll still donate 50% of our handling fee. All the money donated goes directly to support Born Free’s big cat sanctuaries at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa: https://www.bornfree.org.uk/shamwari-big-cat-rescue-sanctuary.
Another example is Club Insure (a UK insurance broker). It announced this year that it aims to raise £75,000 for Prostate Cancer UK by donating £5 for every new or renewed insurance policy.
Donating product like-for-like
Rather than buy-one-get-one-free, you can give-one-away-for-every-one-bought. This worked for Dashel, who gave away one of their stylish recycled cycle helmets to an NHS keyworker for each one bought online during lockdown. They gave a real benefit to NHS workers choosing to cycle, rather than risk public transport, and showed themselves to be a truly ethical company. In turn, they found their helmets in demand.
Stand4socks also donates one product for each sold. They create socks from sustainably sourced yarns, have ethical working conditions and sustainable packaging. They recognised that the most requested items from homeless shelters are socks. As a result, they designed suitable socks for homeless people and donate a pair with every sale.
For smaller businesses with limited resources volunteering is an excellent way to contribute. A lot of the big organisations offer Corporate Volunteering Days. Nationwide Building Society, for example, gives their employees two paid days per annum for volunteer activities. This may be harder for small businesses but even a couple of half days might make a difference and boost morale.
Alternatively, you may have services that you can provide to a smaller charity. Reach Volunteering is a platform connecting businesses with skills they want to offer with organisations looking for help: https://reachvolunteering.org.uk/
I hope these examples of successful CSR will provide inspiration and that you’ll introduce your own CSR programme.
Here are some tips to help you get you started:
- Choose something that resonates with you and/or your business
- Don’t choose something simply because it makes you look good. People will see through it, and it’ll be difficult to sustain if your heart’s not really in it.
- With big teams consider allowing them to choose what they want to do to contribute. You’ll get better buy in and they will enjoy it even more!
- Something is always better than nothing so if necessary, start small. Once you’ve got going it’ll be easier to expand your contribution later on.
- Announce it on your social media and website, on your packaging. Let people know what you are doing!
As discussed, CSR can cover a wide range of activities and different types of contribution. Find something that works for you and your business and get started!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shon Alam is founder of Bidwedge. Bidwedge makes it easy to change your left-over cash currency back into Sterling – at great rates for even the smallest amounts. Just enter the amount, see the rate you’ll be paid, post the cash and watch the money appear in your bank account. It’s easy to do.