CSR Planning: How to get started

2020 was the year that the fast-paced world of travel, commerce and leisure came to a standstill. With the halt in most travel, came a pause. That pause gave most individuals and corporates a time to reflect on more than just the career hamster wheel that many of us found ourselves on. The tangible reduction in greenhouse emissions by over 60% during the peak of the pandemic and the host of other benefits that reduced travel and a slower pace of life that was thrust upon us, got many of us thinking about the planet and the community. 2021 was the year many individuals took little steps in making a change. We expect 2022 to be the year individuals and corporates consolidate and continue to march towards embedding sustainability into all aspects of decision making.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to the concept that a business is not only responsible for creating value for shareholders, but should also seek to benefit the broader community in which it exists. While the definition of CSR varies between organizations, businesses are being guided by the concept of ‘triple bottom lines’- i.e., people, planet and profits. A strong CSR policy often includes elements of environmental, ethical, philanthropic and economic responsibility. Economic responsibility: the practice of a firm backing all of its financial decisions in its commitment to do good in the areas listed above
Sustainability is now ubiquitous in all walks of life. Stakeholders no longer accept the status quo of ‘profits before planet’. As consumers, we have come to appreciate that we cannot consume ourselves to a more sustainable world. Social impact is the effect that actions have on people, communities, and society. Even little steps in the right direction can collectively make a big difference. When it comes to developing a CSR strategy, organizations must be brave enough to silence their desires for perfection. What is needed is collective imperfect steps towards a more sustainable community and world.

Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-love-people-woman-6646974/

1. Undertake an in-depth current state analysis

If you don’t have a well-defined CSR strategy and roadmap yet, it is important that you assess your organization’s current Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) footprint. Stakeholder, shareholder and investor surveys will enable you to gain insights on what they are looking for in addition to and in conjunction with financial returns. Engaging your employees provide valuable insights into ‘what makes them tick’ and what is of priority to them from an ESG perspective. Incorporating stakeholder and employee feedback while developing a CSR strategy will allow for greater engagement and commitment to the cause.

2. Align your CSR objectives with your organization strategy

While stakeholders now demand that companies have a strong CSR focus, financial returns nevertheless continue to remain a key focus for shareholders and investors. As such, having CSR objectives align with your company’s strategy will ensure CSR initiatives are met without sacrificing financial returns. A relatable example are the efforts of reputable fashion brands committed to using recycled or sustainable fabrics in their manufacturing. While the costs of such efforts may be on par or marginally higher than usual manufacturing processes, implementing such measures leaves the company with a positive environmental footprint while also ensuring customer and stakeholder demands for strong CSR plans are satisfied.

3. Set short-term and long-term goals with measurable impact

Once you have established your CSR objectives, as with goal setting, it is important to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) objectives for the short and long term. Like all goals, CSR goals must be measurable. Measuring impact can be subjective. However, there are a number of tools and questionnaires that can be designed into the overall CSR efforts to measure the impact of your organization’s CSR efforts. B Impact measurement is a credible tool for organizations to measure its impact on employees, community, environment and customers while benchmarking against peers and competitors.

4. Choose the most appropriate framework for your organization and report

Measuring social impact is subjective and hard. Many organizations and academics have developed frameworks that can be tailored and applied across a variety of organizations.

  • We mentioned B Impact Measurement above which allows companies to implement best practices, measure, report and offers best practice guides to empower companies to improve
  • In determining a framework and your company’s strategy, it may be helpful to use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDG’s) as a guide to determine key areas of focus. The UN-SDGs are broad and varied ranging from environmental causes, economic, social and ethical considerations
  • The Principles of Responsible Investment may be more suitable for investment managers, family offices and philanthropic organizations to measure the impact of their investments or potential investments

It is important to report on your sustainability initiatives. Listed companies in most jurisdictions are required to include sustainability reports. The Global Reporting, GRI Standards provides tools for companies to report on their sustainability initiatives in a structured way that is transparent to the organization’s stakeholders.

5. Promote an inclusive workplace culture

While the thought of CSR is usually associated with reducing emissions, use of renewables, alleviating poverty and philanthropy, if the saying ‘charity begins at home’ resonates with you, then it is just as true for CSR. The first step towards implementing CSR doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be A STEP. Here are a few policies that are universal to most companies which may be aligned with the UN-SDGs to improve CSR:

  • Review hiring policies to ensure diversity and inclusion metrics are met
  • Review compensation policies and pay for the role rather than pay the person
  • Promote gender equality and support for women including equitable hiring, mentoring programmes and back to work initiatives
  • Review parental leave policies and provide support to parents during periods of family life transitions
  • Review supply chains and evaluate elements of the supply chain where ESG considerations can be incorporated. Some examples include eliminating single use products, recycling, sourcing environmentally friendly products, reducing energy consumption etc.

There are many great examples of companies who have made great strides to invest and support the success of women in the workforce. A strong workplace culture creates positive feedback loops that enhance a company’s social responsibility mission. Employees are more likely to do their best work and help their company succeed when they feel seen and heard. A successful and happy company attracts top talent who appreciate the company’s culture and positively contribute to the company’s culture, and the cycle continues.


Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/group-of-people-standing-indoors-3184396/

Pre-COVID, many of us accepted the status quo and fell victims to the bystander effect– i.e. that someone else will do their part in saving our planet which is in distress. However, the pandemic has prompted us to take greater personal responsibility and collective action. As Robert Swan said, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”. Even if you do not have a well thought out CSR strategy, it’s never too late to make a start. The timing is never perfect, big changes after-all start with little steps.

Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/ground-group-growth-hands-461049/

Thank you for reading this blog, you may also be interested in reading ‘How Landlords Benefits from the Managed Coworking Model’.

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