Before you start
Analyze the strengths of your organization. What is your core business? How do your production processes affect your immediate environment? What is true to your brand, product or service and how does it reflect in your mission statement?
It is often best to engage with a program that is related to your industry. This not only enables you to bring your expertise into the project, but it also ensures that your CSR efforts are aligned with the areas you impact. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to communicate externally and engage employees internally. However, sometimes this is difficult and at those times it’s better to find a suitable partner.
Ensure you do something realistic, that has a tangible impact and that you can commit to on a long-term basis. If you are a small business it might be better to partner with an established organization. Many small NGO’s and charity organizations are dependent on investments and are rather flexible so as to ensure the program fits your needs. An already established partner also has the expertise of their program, allowing you to use their impact measures to rest assured that the program has been evaluated and makes an impact.
If you prefer to do your own initiative, you have the possibility to involve other functions of your organization and your consumers. You also have a chance to ensure that the program is aligned with your core values and communication.
Engage your employees – start from within. The program needs to be relevant and have a strong impact, but it should also engage your colleagues. Let them be a part of the program, whether by following the process through internal communication or by actually participating. A community day based on the program or by teaching children in the school you are supporting creates great ambassadors. Moreover, it builds pride and ensures that your CSR-program reflects your corporate culture and remains present within the whole organization.
Before you start a CSR-program, do ensure that you are happy with the way things are today. Make an audit of the current situation. Look into every aspect of your organization – Co2 emissions, paper recycling, HR benefits for employees, codes around ethics. Follow the international guidelines on which variables to measure (GRI). Even as a small business it’s good to create a framework – what is CSR to our particular company, what does it mean for our business and what shall we measure? You can also connect your vision to the UN sustainable development goals (SDG’s) to ensure you are working in the right direction.
Make sure your program is actually helping the local people. Many programs are not entirely thought through (hence the potential benefit of working with established partner). What really might help a community might for instance be micro financing (if done in the proper way) or by creating the infrastructure, technical possibilities and education necessary to prosper by themselves.
If you have a partner organization, make sure to question and visit their programs to ensure you feel comfortable with the set-up, the KPI’s and the organizational structure.
After the program is launched
Make sure that CSR is an integrated part of your business model. Create possibilities for your CSR initiatives to reflect within the whole organization. And, as we noted above, make sure you have internal ambassadors. Ensure that your goals for the future are set and that you have clear KPI’s that will allow you to track improvements over time
Engage consumers through campaigns based on your core mission, in communication and, if possible, as part of your offering (every time you buy one product 10% supports our partner…)
Engage your local community and tell the stories of your efforts. If CSR becomes an integrated part of your business, it will stay there – external communication creates pride and determination within.
Make sure to evaluate and build the program on a regular basis.
Have fun – it will reflect on your program and don’t forget your heart and the KPI's!