Corporate Social Responsibility is (CSR) is “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society.” A company that takes on its responsibility in a serious manner takes proactive steps to identify those areas within its sphere of influence in which it creates an impact, and then proceeds to ensure that this impact is a positive one.
Many companies don’t fully understand the implications of this notion. Others do, taking action to fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities, but then fail to communicate their efforts to relevant stakeholders. The latter approach is a missed opportunity, since by communicating their CSR efforts, companies can influence their peers to follow their least in their commitment towards ethical, responsible and sustainable practices.
Here are a few tips on actions that can be taken to develop your CSR communication strategy:
1. CSR needs to be endorsed at the top levels. A mission statement which integrates social responsibility and sustainability concerns into the core functions of the business can go a long way in setting the tone for the development of business processes and initiatives which reflect this vision.
2. If you are indeed serious about CSR, you should identify key people in your business who are given responsibility for CSR-related practices and actions. Let your company stakeholders know about these people, give them a voice and let them take the lead in communicating and engaging with them.
3. Does your company publish a CSR report? Upload it on your website and disseminate it widely through all of your communication channels. (You don’t publish a CSR report? What are you waiting for?)
4. If you have a Code of Practice or Standard Operating Procedures (and indeed you should) make sure they are not forgotten deep in someone’s drawer. Organise talks and training sessions which explain these procedures to your employees, and let them give you feedback about them – effective communication is a two-way system!
5. If you have a management system in place to manage any social and environment issues (such as ISO 26000 or SA8000) make sure this is communicated through your various channels. These guidelines make sure you are on the right track in your approach towards CSR and give legitimacy to your work in this field.
6. Carry out ongoing monitoring and evaluation of your CSR goals and engage as many people as possible in the process. Explain why you are doing this, why it is important and the key role that they play in the process. Listen to your stakeholders’ suggestions for improvement.
7. Get an external expert to assess your CSR efforts – this will give you an objective perspective. By aligning yourself with respected experts in the field, your efforts will gain additional exposure and legitimacy.
8. Shout out about your results – CSR is a win-win approach: good for the planet and good for business. The only way to encourage other players to follow your lead is to showcase the benefits that you have achieved in the process!