CSR – Caring is the new black

Contribution to the society is the rent we pay to stay on this planet”

 

          We are more than just individuals; we are part of a community and when all is said and done, we depend on each other to make our lives better. Following this logic thread, our businesses are also part of a bigger picture. So how do you leave a mark after you are gone? Do you work selfishly to gain more and more profit and leave your family with a great fortune but living in a world damaged by your actions? Or are you going to use some of that wealth to leave them a better world, a better community to live in?

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            We have more than one definition of CSR, all of them right if you ask me. Bottom line, CSR is “the ethical behavior of a company towards the society” and as we all know, ethical behavior has different meanings for different businesses. We are part of EU so we must also align our CSR strategies, the EU definition of CSR – “a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis”. So CSR has a voluntary part, if you get a fine or you are forced by a law to act ethically then you should think twice before proclaiming your business as socially involved.

The incentive for involvement in the community, for social responsibility should be found in the benefits it will bring to the organization. We have a fist full of reasons why you have to at least consider CSR. Externally you influence customers; they will be less inclined to leave you, buy more and recommend you and your products to others. You stand out in the market, differentiate yourself from the competition and improve relationships with partners and suppliers. A good ethical policy will bring positive publicity. Internally you will reduce costs, and improve the morale of employees which will be more engaged in a company with the same values as they have.

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            On the other hand, we know that sometimes negative incentives work even better, so what happens if you decide not to build a CSR strategy?  “88% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society.”- Better Business Journey, UK Small Business Consortium. We live in an information era, what you do will spread faster and wider than ever before. More and more customers disapprove unethical actions from companies. So even if it is the only negative impact, I say it is enough in order for you to start working on your strategy.

In the end, good or bad, ethical or not, the CSR strategy is meant to help increase profit. Don’t believe is all because of the big hearts top management in companies have. Let’s call it a win – win situation. A company builds a better image and thus more clients, sales and profits. On the other hand the community receives something back; there will be a significant improvement in the lives of its members. Insist on making this clear, CSR is about making money and not about giving away, and you will get your strategy approved quicker. You should always start with profit in mind when designing the plan for CSR.

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             Also try and link the strategy to your core business. You can choose the most popular causes because they attract people, but if your product doesn’t meet the expectations that the campaign raised you will fail. For example Cisco uses virtualization to replace face to face meetings and in this manner reducing carbon foot print. Yes it is part of their core business, and yes this might look like just another marketing trick. But what if that is true, they are being good members of the community and promoting their business.

Most important, don’t forget you have to identify the pressing concerns, real ones, not just the popular ones. People are interested more in healthcare and environment, so even if short term response when you give money for charity will make you think you are on the right track, long term sustainability is achieved following global and not local issues.

*Mihai Chiratcu is an opportunity creator, trainer and free man. After 10 years experience in sales and business development, he is using the knowledge gathered trying to bring a new approach in training and business consultancy. He brings you every Thursday special information and gives advices through the section “Business Opinions”. For more information, you can find Mihai at chiratcumihai@gmail.com.

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