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Thoughtful partnerships

It’s proven that having a socially responsible business can have a measurable impact on your bottom line. Does CSR have a seat at your business strategy table?

The relationship between a company’s business strategy and its social responsibility strategy is a give and take. The long-term goals of the company are its “raison d’tre” but the actual alignment with strong CSR initiatives that support those goals are what give it sustainability, are what tell the world that you are in it for the long run.

You know what a business strategy is, but what exactly is a corporate responsibility strategy? It is often mistaken as philanthropy or charity when, in actuality, its creating business value while promoting positive social change. By doing what you do best to help meet society’s needs, your company will create shared value for your business and your community.

The seeds of your social responsibility program have already been planted.

If these initiatives were not already on your radar, you may not even realize that you are on the path. Start by identifying where your current operations and processes reflect your company’s values by doing an audit of your various business units. Determine how they participate, or can participate, in social responsibility initiatives by collecting information from the relevant “owners” of each unit. For example, Human Resources may have initiatives that support gender equality, training or employee mentoring programs. Your Finance Department may be considering triple bottom line reporting and Supply Chain may be enforcing strict measures through their contracting requirements.

If a company makes money from good citizenship, it will be a better citizen.

What does your company need to do to ensure its CSR strategy creates business value? After all, you are in the business to make money! The focus should be a three-prong approach of making money (not giving it away), helping solve a societal need and creating shared values with your stakeholders. Your strategy must be linked with the company’s core purpose. In other words, in addition to offering services and products for sale, how can the organization use its skills and talents to do good in the world?

Do some research. Ask and understand the societal concerns of all your stakeholders. Include them in the conversation and build loyalty by showing you care and that your organization has the expertise and talent to participate in the resolution of those issues. You will create positive brand awareness and drive revenue generation by aligning your programs and marketing plans with the issues that are important to them.

Help your employees to be brand advocates.

It is much easier to gain the buy-in, and therefore solid results, from both leadership and staff if CSR programs are linked to your company’s purpose. This meeting of the minds starts from Day One when you are recruiting for talent.

Are you focused only on skills and education when you post for open positions? Or, do you ensure that candidates understand and support the vision of your organization - including the values that reinforce a strong and sustainable foundation? Does your Employer Brand reflect your culture and extend an invitation to those in alignment? Employees who believe in your vision and core values, and who feel valued, are more likely to spread a positive message to other workers and consumers.

Shared value partnerships link the two strategies.

Partners wear many costumes from consumers to suppliers to investors. Are your stakeholders in alignment with your organization’s vision, mission and values? Or, are they acting in a way that does not support your efforts, putting your organization at risk with their actions? This can include everything from disparaging customer remarks about quality or service which may be a result of the partnerships with suppliers or, your lack of awareness of company impact in the community.

Consider whether you have an equal value exchange with your partners? Do they feel taken advantage of or do they believe that they have been compensated fairly? Do both you and they feel heard and respected? Do you crowdsource ideas from your stakeholders? Do they view you as collaborative? If you are solely focused on bottom line, it is unlikely that you will breed the fierce loyalty that comes with sustained business, one in it for the long haul.

There are many other factors to consider such as your corporate structure, the geographical environment in which you do business and the way that you measure and report your efforts. As you review your current operations, you will find ways that your social responsibility strategy and thoughtful partnerships can support and strengthen your foundation and business goals. This will lead to a competitive edge and respected place as a solid corporate citizen.

Copyright © 2018

All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore

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