You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a company that practices corporate social responsibility. You want proof? The Harvard Law School study “CEO Materialism and Corporate Social Responsibility” revealed that Fortune 500 firms spend more than $15 billion on philanthropy and CSR.
On a personal note, giving back has always been part of my company’s DNA; it’s a policy that my father started and that I’ve continued during my own leadership tenure. CSR is near and dear to me because I’ve seen the amazing work we’ve done affect communities and influence and change the culture within our own offices.
For businesses looking to make a philanthropic mark, implementing CSR strategies won’t be an overnight overhaul. For small businesses and startups especially, make sure your CSR approach complements your company vision. That way, you can ensure change is happening in the outside world and within your own company culture.
The limited resources small businesses and startups have means a CSR initiative must be a fruitful venture. Determine the value it’ll bring the community, the people in said community, and the area going forward.
Once those questions are answered, the approach needs to satisfy a couple more criteria. For starters, your CSR must be standardized and easy to comprehend and execute for each employee; make sure everyone is on board with your vision and understands the ideology behind your CSR passion.
After that, make your goals achievable on your end and accessible to those affected. I’ve seen an African-based partner of mine want to assist with the United Nations’ Every Woman, Every Child initiative but be unable to because it was living in a region that was operating without power. Take care to ensure you’re equipped with the right resources to accomplish your goals.
Without setting a detailed CSR strategy, you can’t know whether your plan was a success or failure. Establish measurable goals to translate your CSR’s value to your investors, employees, and customers. If the purpose of your CSR is unclear, your company will have a hard time getting anyone — internally or externally — to buy in.
Carefully plotting a CSR strategy’s approach gives it deadlines to reach and a way to hold those in charge accountable. Here are three strategies to employ for creating measurable checkpoints that will get the goals of your CSR and business aligned:
When unsure what the rest of the market is doing, look for inspiration at companies like yours. Find businesses that have similar goals, and see how they measure their CSR projects.
You may be able to translate their methods into workable plans for your company. Utilizing a resource like GRI, which sets standards for businesses and other organizations for sustainability reporting, can help your business find a compatible organization through which to funnel your CSR endeavors.
Make sure that planned CSR projects are not set in stone and can grow with the company. Being socially responsible is usually associated with large corporations, meaning plans, goals, and everything else is subject to change.
How can your smaller business be socially responsible with its limited resources, yet continue to grow CSR as the company grows? Make CSR a part of your company’s long-term goals and allow your initiative’s vision — and reach — to mature along with the business.
Build your goals on current resources rather than big-picture dreams. Remember that it’s much easier to achieve realistic CSR goals rather than making impractical objectives that are aren’t achievable.
Organizations like Pledge 1% help small businesses integrate the titular percentage of its resources to CSR. Giving such a small amount might seem insignificant, but remember that it’s something to build upon.
Philanthropy doesn’t have to be a distant dream for a small or new business. It can be established as part of your vision right now. By setting measurable, realistic goals, your company can incorporate CSR into its DNA from the beginning and influence a nearby community and — hopefully — the world.
Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company specializing in applied health systems. He also leads Skingenix, which specializes in skin organ regeneration and the research and development of botanical drug products. Kevin is co-founder of the Human Heritage Project.