How Can Your Business Develop an Effective CSR Strategy?

It is difficult to imagine a successful business today that does not make an active effort to engage with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Whether it is in the form of charitable donations, commercial support or volunteering initiatives, CSR has become a vital part of all responsible businesses. Below, Alpa Bhakta, the CEO at Butterfield Mortgages Limited, talks CEO today through CSR strategy planning.

As an umbrella term, CSR lacks a universally accepted definition. But essentially, we are referring to when an organisation acts outside of its core remit to deliver environmental or social good. Indeed, CSR typically encompasses two core objectives—to benefit society, while at the same time bringing value to the company, although not necessarily in a monetary sense.

Given the importance of social responsibility in modern business, how can corporates develop an effective CSR strategy that works for them?

A personal mission

Whether your business has engaged with CSR before, or is beginning a new strategy, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what issues would bring the biggest value to both the company and the wider society in which it operates.

The task here is to choose a cause that resonates with the business. The initiative should also aim to mirror and reinforce the values of key stakeholders in the business—customers, clients, employees and shareholders alike. Furthermore, it ought to focus on the areas where businesses’ operations overlap with wider society.

Butterfield Mortgages Limited (BML) is a part of the Butterfield Group, which proudly serves as a Global Pilot Partner of the Seabin Project—an initiative created by Australian entrepreneurs Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton to reduce the amount of waste in the world’s waters. In August last year, Butterfield placed London’s first Seabin at the Royal Victoria Docks, where this single unit is expected to capture more than half a ton of unwanted debris each year.

As an offshore bank with many of our principal operations based in island nations, it was important for Butterfield to raise awareness of the dangers and impact of water pollution around the world. And with offices in The Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Mauritius, the UK, Switzerland, Canada and Singapore, the Seabin Project was an ideal initiative for Butterfield to support as part of the company’s broader CSR efforts.

Butterfield’s involvement in this project benefits the company—it is good for morale as well as the ecosystem in which we work—while also being advantageous to The Seabin Project and, ultimately, the environment.

The same approach we employed can be adopted by other businesses regardless of sector. Take, for example, a coffee production company—the impact of its operations on the environment and local coffee-growing communities will be key areas of concern. It makes sense, therefore, to focus its CSR efforts on minimising its carbon footprint and ensuring the coffee is sustainably sourced.

On the other hand, a services business could look to encouraging employees to participate in local volunteer programmes, which could prove fruitful in developing a close partnership between the company and the local community.

Strategic partnerships

On the theme of partnerships, collaborating with NGOs and charities with the goal of tackling social and environmental issues could hold many advantages.

British Gas, for example, is on a mission to improve living conditions for nearly one million British households. To achieve this, the company is working with Shelter to renovate dilapidated homes across the country through a five-year project.

By taking advantage of the skills and expertise on offer from both sides, symbiotic CSR partnerships like this have the potential to bring significant benefits to both parties. While the chosen body receives the resources it needs to operate, the business itself can draw on the capabilities and expertise of a partner that is well-versed in a particular social, community or environmental issue.

By taking advantage of the skills and expertise on offer from both sides, symbiotic CSR partnerships like this have the potential to bring significant benefits to both parties.

Create awareness and monitor your progress

Once a CSR strategy is up and running, it becomes important to spread awareness of the initiative to achieve maximum impact.

Driving visibility to a CSR campaign—whether through social media, internal and external communications, press releases, or events—can humanise companies and attract further support. On a similar level, drawing attention to these initiatives can have a significant impact on how well consumers or clients engage with an organisation.

According to the findings from the 2015 Cone Communications / Ebiquity Global CSR Study, 84% of global consumers seek out responsible products whenever possible, while 91% expect companies to operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.

Evidently, CSR has become a bedrock of customer loyalty, so creating awareness of initiatives not only benefits the success of the project itself; but also strengthens relationships with clients and consumers.

Meanwhile, monitoring the project’s progress can be a good way of ensuring that it has been implemented effectively and is bringing measurable change to society. After all, to invest resources into a project but not track its success is not responsible, socially or otherwise.

Why do we need CSR?

Businesses have a significant impact on society and the environment. An effective CSR strategy can ensure this impact is a positive one.

Importantly, the benefits to the business itself do not necessarily have to be tangible—there is great value to be had in enhancing employee morale and improving company standing in the eyes of stakeholders. Meanwhile, taking a long-term view is essential for producing valuable societal benefits and supporting the company’s mission to make the world a better place.

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