Corporate Social Responsibility Starts From The Ground UP

Corporate Social Responsibility Starts From The Ground UP

Priyadarshini Nigam, Head - Corporate Communication & CSR, Newgen Software, 0

Holding a Masters in Business Economics from the Delhi University, Priyadarshini has been associated with Newgen for over 13 years now, prior to which she worked as a Feature Writer at Depth News Press Foundation Asia.

Corporate social responsibility(CSR) has many different definitions depending on who you ask, but the core of CSR is always the same: a partnership that benefits the business and the community simultaneously. Of course in the context of global corporations the ‘community’ takes on a larger scale, but the idea remains true strategically chosen, longterm partnerships between businesses and socially minded organizations/initiatives hold the potential for immense growth and profit for all involved parties.

CSR is nothing new. In 2006, the Harvard Business Review identified four main motivations for companies to create a CSR program moral obligation, sustainability license to operate and reputation. While moral obligation is still a relevant motivator in today’s corporate climate, a robust CSR program is more of a requirement than an option. With large corporations pushing the envelope on CSR initiatives businesses worldwide are compelled and motivated to invest in CSR.

Picking the Perfect Partnership
Oftentimes, companies make the mistake of looking at CSR as a quota to fill, rather than recognizing the scope for substantial, longterm return on investment from strategically executed CSR initiatives. It would be naive to propagate the idea that CSR is a completely selfless initiative. In any business, investments of time, money, and energy must deliver some return for the initiative to be sustainable. However, when dispatched poorly, CSR initiatives run the gamut from pure philanthropy, with few actual benefits to the company, to propaganda nothing more than a thinly veiled advertisement. The true power of CSR lies in deliberately chosen partnerships. Companies must first reflect upon and reinforce their own core values as an organization, and then select social (or environmental, governance, or any other)initiatives which prioritize the same values.

Establishing a strong CSR initiative gives businesses the unique opportunity to make an impact beyond their bottom line. Giving back to the surrounding community or even society on a grander scale should be the main goal of any CSR initiative. All the business and branding benefits are merely happy side effects. The best CSR programs develop when a business chooses to tackle a social issue that aligns directly with the values and goals of the company. That way any positive effects incurred by a company’s CSR initiative become points of great excitement and pride within the company and its network including customers suppliers and employees.

The Business Benefits of CSR
It has been long proven that companies gain value by deploying a strong CSR initiative. In fact according to a McKinsey study, 'two thirds of CFOs and three
quarters of investment professionals agree that CSR activities do create value for their share holders’. This value added comprises of both tangible and intangible results. The resulting business benefits include Access to greater and wider revenue streams Brand differentiation, Heightened employee morale and engagement Attract and retain better talent, Customer engagement Longterm business growth and Community enrichment.

Stepping up as a Startup
Too often, CSR is regarded as reserved for the corporate bigwigs of the world an endeavor that requires significant cashflow and time investments. But that is far from the case. While it can be daunting for startups to devote resources to giving back when they have barely gotten off the ground, it is important to debunk the idea that executing an effective CSR initiative requires corporate-level finances and power.

In the pursuit of implementing a successful CSR initiative, startups must act as facilitators, melding their own creativity with the resources and manpower of the community

For many startups, a great CSR program can be created by learning to ask for help. Startups often fall short in terms of resources but make up for this set back with a range of knowledge bases, organizational skills, and networking capabilities. In the pursuit of implementing a successful CSR initiative startups must act as facilitators, melding their own creativity with the resources and manpower of the community.

Startups should also involve their boards and benefactors. When presented with the short and longterm, tangible benefits an effective CSR initiative is proven to deliver, board members are often surprisingly supportive, some times to the point of allotting a CSR budget. But even without the budget, startups can execute a CSR initiative incredibly well by relying on the same grassroots CSR strategies as the small businesses in my little, Midwestern hometown.

Grassroots CSR Strategies for Startups
First and foremost, startups should select an established organization to support, whose core values are aligned with those of the company. Furthermore startups should capitalize on the skills and passions of their employees, focusing on the issues your employees are already invested in, ensuring your idealistic zeal and engagement.

Most importantly, as startups are, by their very nature, just ‘starting-up’, they have the unique opportunity to easily integrate ‘giving back’ and a service oriented mindset into their company culture. As the concept of service and social responsibility becomes integral to the company’s identity a robust CSR program will flourish naturally out of the actions and passions of the startup’s employees, and into the surrounding community.

CSR has become an essential part of business world wide, and the pressure to invest into social responsibility is not lessening anytime soon. As startups enter the marketplace it is ultimately to their advantage to integrate CSR into their company’s culture from the ground up and watch as it grows into an investment with endless returns.