A DECADE or so ago when you were starting up, your organisation was small and almost illiquid. However, it has grown into a big and profitable business over the years.
Its growth could be attributed to your business acumen, among other things. But what is clear is that the community’s goodwill and patronage have played a key role to get the company where it is today.
As the chief executive, you probably know about corporate social responsibility (CRS), but it was not one of the firm’s objectives while starting out. You could also have never connected your company success with the community’s support.
In fact, after learning CSR is giving back to society, you sighed and cringed, wondering how crazy because the first thing that flashed across your mind was the ‘burden’ of spending your profits on social needs. Then, you summarily dismissed your marketing manager’s CSR development plan as useless.
Come to think of it, what if the community withholds its voting power and does not patronise your establishment, how long would you stay in business?
Corporate social responsibility is about improving the living conditions of local communities, in which you operate; socially, economically or environmentally.
That’s why every progressive business should make corporate social responsibility a key aspect of its business to promote the development of community initiatives.
Therefore, any company should never look at CSR as a burden or where one has to choose between being socially responsible and making a profit.
Rather it should be part of your business plan, knowing that it leads to accomplishment of your business needs as well. Remember, without the support of the community, your business will collapse within months, if not weeks.
CSR is like buying insurance policy and helps build your firm’s future own future as the community identifies with it and its ideals. This means that whenever they want to do business or shop, they think of you first, and also tell friends about you, thus expanding your customer base.
In fact, when CSR outreaches are strategically carried out, your company will edge out competitors, meaning that corporate responsibility pays.
CSR is an effect way to build relationships that products themselves cannot. Remember, it is not easy to build a relationship just around the act of buying a pair of shoes or any other product unless your company is in contact with the consumers via social activities.
ICT firm, Dell, for example, once came up with a strategy to sell more PCs by convincing its clients that their company would plant a certain number of trees for each unit bought. The firm knew trees are crucial in absorbing greenhouse gases that to pollute the air and cause global warming.
This was a good plan because it links the company to the community in ways that their products and services contribute to the better world.
Of course, despite making huge sales, the company gets a good image for being eco-friendly. As a result, the company gets dependable support for its brand and services as people want a relationship with a company not just a transaction.
So CSR as a business strategy helps firms connect with critical constituencies.
CSR enhances brand perception, increases sales, reputation, gains in the market share and employee satisfaction, as well as improves community wellbeing, all of which create value for your firm.
However, CSR projects are most likely to be successful when you develop key performance indicators to measure the impact of the strategies on the company’s internal and external needs.
Without such an assessment plan in place, you won’t know whether your CSR strategy achieved objectives, implying that the strategy could not be sustainable over the long-time.
But for the best part, CSR doesn’t necessarily mean using your profits to support community needs. You can support the community in different ways such as doing voluntary work like cleaning streets or markets or hospitals or provide communities with jobs to improve their livelihoods.
Through CSR, your company may subsidise cost of life-saving drugs or may ensure the provision of energy-saving sources of cooking; food security and safe water systems.
You could also sensitise people about climatic changes (to secure food and water), which can help improving the lives of community members, your core clientele base.
CSR is, therefore, an inevitable and central component of business that develops responsible management and creates value for your brand.
The writer is an entrepreneurship and business commentator