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The importance of CSR in the modern world

2016-03-04

How a responsible corporate culture can create happy customers, engaged employees and blossoming balance sheets.


Done well by some, done right be few, corporate social responsibility is a challenge that modern businesses must address. Companies that embed CSR in their culture benefit from motivated workers, happy customers and corporate integrity. Companies that are caught acting unethically, however, risk fines, penalties and negative publicity.

According to a recent survey by PwC Global, 64% of CEOs say that CSR is “core to everything we do [1]." No longer a standalone initiative, CSR is a fundamental part of how modern businesses are run.

Whether you view CSR as an intrinsic part of modern business, a box to be ticked or a PR opportunity, the truth is that it can no longer be ignored by businesses.

 

Pleasing the masses

While there is already a shift towards socially conscious businesses, consumers are demanding more. According to a survey by Forster communications [2], 75% of 18-34-year-olds think business should work more with charities to address social and environmental issues.

For businesses limited by their budgets, consider it an investment. Just under half of consumers would be more likely to buy products and services from businesses that endorse a charity and 53% are more likely to buy from a business with a strong stance on environmental and social issues.

 

Trust, transparency and the importance of understanding

CSR is not limited to what you do however; equally important is what you say. It’s no secret that consumers will appreciate transparency from a business, but PwC have noted that it is intrinsically linked to customer acquisition and retention:

“When there is a high level of trust in a company, it drives business performance by attracting new customers and retaining existing ones [1]”

Importantly, you will need to be honest about your product or service. If your product is unhealthy or bad for the environment, you need to ensure that your message doesn’t convey the opposite. This is particularly important when marketing to a younger audience that may be unfamiliar with the environmental, social and societal implications of certain business practices.

 

Leading by example

Ensuring that your company embraces CSR is equally important for your internal stakeholders

A recent study by Forbes found that 32% of employees would “seriously consider leaving their job if their company gave no/ little money to charity,” and 65% would if their company harmed the environment.

Even the most sceptical of CEOs believe that acting unethically can threaten the commitment, motivation and productivity of staff. However, ethical integrity can promote an inclusive environment and genuinely empower employees.

Young people are increasingly becoming the driving force behind charitable projects. In our Youth Trends Survey 2016, we found that 87% of 18-24-year-olds would like to be involved in charity projects. Often aligning themselves with social and environmental causes, young people are using social responsibility as a means to evaluate potential employers.

It is equally important that social responsibility is genuine and consistent. For example, a company that has no recycling policy in place, but organises an annual litter clean up may have employees questioning the sincerity of their efforts.

Ultimately, companies should focus their efforts on identifying and addressing the root causes of irresponsibility and unsustainability in both the context of their business and in the wider society as a whole.

 

References

 

[1] http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-survey/2016/landing-page/pwc-19th-annual-global-ceo-survey.pdf

 

[2] http://www.forster.co.uk/insight/new-annual-survey-finds-that-doing-good-is-good-for-business/