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What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Doing your part for the people goes beyond your business plan

Corporate social responsibility, also known as CSR, is a type of self-regulation that companies can use to assess their impact on the world. It is a way they can measure their contribution to society, whether that be the well-being of the communities they are involved in, their environmental initiatives, charity work, volunteer projects, or ethical labour practices.

As a sustainable and ethical marketing agency, we can see that CSR has an important role to play in helping businesses and brands know how to make small steps towards better change!

For some companies, these areas may be aligned with The United Nations Global Sustainability Goals, which include but are not limited to zero hunger, good health and well-being, sustainable cities and communities, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, responsible production, consumption and climate action.

These are all causes businesses should be looking to make a better impact towards, and positively, so many already are!

Ultimately, CSR is a strategy whereby businesses can implement a framework to hold themselves accountable for the environmental and social issues their business impacts.

Why is corporate social responsibility important?

In 2023, businesses must measure their success by other means than profitability. This goes for company growth and brand awareness too! Now, more than ever, customers, employees, and investors scrutinise businesses on their social and environmental impact and want to see what good they are doing in the world.

An effective CSR strategy can make your company more desirable to potential investors, make you appear more trustworthy to your customers, and help you retain talent within your business. All of which can directly benefit your business’s success and profitability while giving you a sense of purpose and direction.

As marketers, we’re constantly assessing how people are responding to brands. Research also suggests that 86% of millennials and 84% of Gen Zs would be more loyal to brands if they took a public stand on social and environmental issues (Agarwal et al., 2018, ‘Global Human Capital Trends’). And, of course, with millennials currently making up 50 per cent of the workforce around the globe and predicted to be 75% by 2050 (Hall, M., 2017), their power and influence over who buys from who will continue to shape the future of businesses.

But how is a strong corporate social responsibility strategy achieved?

Let’s look at the research!

Consulting firm IO Sustainability researched an organisation with a CSR programme. Their study found that a winning strategy is one whereby a company identifies areas of social impact that fit with its core strategy, products or services, and operations, commits to dedicating resources, sets clear key performance indicators (KPIs), and connects and engages with stakeholders.

According to the research, companies that stick to this three-pronged approach showed significant returns in all business areas.

The same study also realised the direct impact on consumers, splitting customers into two categories: 1) ‘aspirationals’ – those customers who think of a brand as part of the cultural fabric they identify with (39 per cent); 2) ‘advocates’, those customers who proactively promote a brand and support its values (20 per cent). This just shows how important what a brand does is as important as what a brand sells or offers!

An effective CSR strategy is driven by causes that are relevant to your business and that aim to deliver results in these areas. It should be used for more than just a marketing scheme, as you will be expected to demonstrate your impact in your chosen areas. Regardless of the size of your company, corporate social responsibility is not only a way to improve your profits, but it is a way that your business can positively impact the world.

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