Businesses get an image boost from fulfilling their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSRs). People appreciate brands which show that their interests extend beyond profit making. While there may be questions about what this improved goodwill translates to in tangible terms (for example, whether it ultimately leads to a significant increase in sales), such inquiries should be tempered by the understanding that CSRs aren’t for spiking bottom lines. Brands which take on not-for-profit social projects show, through such actions, that they have a soul.
Still, having a soul is good for business. The corporate world, once dominated by giants that thrived on being cut-throat competitors, has evolved a preference for conscientous companies. Today, consumers aren’t merely going for what brand makes the best stuff; they’re also becoming just as concerned about the brand’s environmental track record and labour management. Admittedly, this isn’t yet a thing in Nigeria as it is in first world countries, but we do have enough care for such things to be indignant about the unfair practices of a few local brands. Consumers are starting to vote with their cash, even in these parts.
If having your business in the public’s good books is as important a springboard to long term growth as the evidence suggests, you should be keen on finding ways to tick this box, and tick it well. Again, remember that in the end, the growth of your business should be viewed as a pleasant benefit of a solid CSR program, but never as its aim.
Why your business needs a Corporate Social Responsibility program
We have noted that fulfilling your CSR could have the positive effect of aiding business growth. Here are a few advantages it could bring.
- Competitive edge. If your rivals haven’t paid much attention to being socially responsible especially at the local front, your social projects could make you stand out from amongst them in a good way.
- Greater customer loyalty. This goes back to the point about building a brand with a soul. Your customers would be pleased to be associated with a brand which helped improve the state of their host community.
- Improved team work. In certain instances, Corporate Social Responsibility projects may involve members of your staff working together. Cooperating on such meaningful projects could help improve team bonding and make it easier for them to understand and work with each other.
- Provides an easy recruitment vehicle. This is true for projects aimed at raising education standards. Companies may assist their host community’s young people with trainings, internships and scholarships; they may then offer employment to the best talents from the pool of students they’ve helped in this way.
How to build a socially responsible brand
Take these steps to make your business more socially responsible.
You will have to be systematic about your approach to fulfilling your Corporate Social Responsibility. Simply thinking up ideas and setting out to implement them may not do the target community- and your business -much good.
Start by tapping into your business’s mission statement. If it’s good enough to inspire you and your staff to get things done on the social front, you may build your CSR activity around it. For example, if you run a food production company with the mission statement “to make healthy nutritious meals available at affordable prices,” you may organize sensitization programmes about healthy eating. And if your business is financially capable enough, you could even sponsor medical health checks for people in the host community at a slated time period.
As reason dictates, your company should only take up projects that it can afford. Society’s wants will also have to be assessed, to make sure you don’t end up giving it help it actually doesn’t need. Only take up projects that are a good match between your budget and the needs of society.
Begin with the smaller targets
It’s better to start off with the less grand items on your to-do list of social projects. There are several reasons why this is advisable.
First, it gives you a chance to grow with your plans, so that you will (hopefully) be able to go on to bigger community support tasks as your business expands in size, financial capability, experience and familiarity with the environment.
It also makes it more likely that you’ll avoid a catastrophic first time failure. Smaller profile work tends to be less difficult to deal with, and provides a platform on which to begin building a positive relationship with the intended beneficiary community. There’s usually more at stake with bigger projects, and missteps at this stage are more costly and more damaging to a brand’s image.
Seek ideas from the public
Get your intended beneficiaries involved in deciding what you could do for them. This makes them feel like they are partners with you in your efforts, and they’re likely to appreciate you for this.
If your project caters to a specific community, you may consult with its leaders; but if it takes in a much larger area (city, state or countrywide) or isn’t location specific, you could take suggestions from loyal customers through customer satisfaction surveys or regular conversations.
Partner with other businesses or organizations
Sometimes, partnering with other businesses or organizations may be the way to go, especially if there are advantages to be gained in doing so. Collaborations of this kind are typically undertaken by firms and institutions which have competencies that could be deployed together to good effect in certain kinds of social programs.
Here’s an example: an electronics manufacturing company could link up with an education advocacy NGO on a tour of selected schools nationwide to encourage more children to get interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
Partnerships could simply be about pulling resources together to organize CSR programs; the businesses involved share the benefits that a more healthily funded CSR program brings them.
A list of ways to be socially responsible
In case you’re not sure how your business can lend its bit to society, here are a number of options you could choose from.
- Give educational assistance: trainings, seminars, internships and scholarships. Donate books, laboratory equipment and other useful instruction material to institutions of learning.
- Help address environmental concerns: be actively involved in environmental clean up activities, and run or support campaigns that advocate environmental sustainability.
- Promote greater health consciousness: organize or sponsor sensitization programs and periodic community health checks.
- Donate to charitable causes: make financial and other resource contributions to charities engaged in various causes.
- Do community work: you and your staff could lend a helping hand (quite literally) to your host community when they’re in need of it.
- Help smaller businesses with advice, training and access to useful networks.
- Contribute to infrastructural development: sink boreholes, work with host community to fix their power issues, and liaise with the government to get local roads constructed or repaired.
Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.