corporate social responsibility csr best practicesA look at the seven best practices in corporate social responsibility (CSR).  They include: setting measurable goals, stakeholder engagement,sustainability issues mapping, sustainability management systems (SMS), lifecycle assessment, sustainability/CSR reporting, and sustainability branding.

by Cecilia Lu, Founder and Co-owner of Kiwano Marketing. Get social: Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook.

In today’s competitive market, companies that incorporate social and green policies can leave a lasting impression on the consumer. As Sofia Ribeiro pointed out in her post Using Community Involvement as Part of Your Green Marketing and CSR Strategy, a Cone Inc. survey revealed that 83% of people will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible. With this in mind, how do companies go about communicating their best initiatives?

Recently, Perry Goldschein took the podium at Sustainable Brands 2010 to talk about the seven best practices of corporate social responsibility (CSR). As the founding partner of SDialogue LLC, a strategic sustainability communications firm, Perry provided insights on how to engage your consumers and stakeholders. Follow this recap with CSR’s Seven Best Practices to learn how to put your organization’s best social and environmental practices in the spotlight:

1) Set Measurable Goals:
Return on investment has always been a difficult thing to measure. In order to accomplish this in your CSR policy, Goldschein suggests implementing small changes close to home, such as improving employee policies that decrease turnover and improve recruitment. Simple steps, like minimizing waste and resource use are changes that can be developed into a memorable story about how sustainability efforts support your company’s overall corporate strategy.  [See Employee Engagement Part I-3]

2) Stakeholder Engagement:
Leaving their stakeholders out of the loop is one of the top mistakes companies make when trying to jump on the green/socially responsible bandwagon. In order for your company to articulate its values, missions, strategy, and implementation in the creation of your CSR plan, it is important for everyone to be on the same page. Stakeholders can help by partaking in the regulatory approvals process, improving relationships proactively, or solving CSR roadblocks and potential crises. Include your stakeholders from the start of the consultation process and sidestep moving forward with developments in which they would otherwise have little influence over or information about.  [See Six Tactics for Selling Your Sustainability Strategy to Stakeholders]

3) Sustainability Issues Mapping:
This approach uses interactive maps to help prioritize and narrow down key issues, saving your company time and money during the initial research stage. For instance, Sir Geoffrey Chandler, founder and chair of Amnesty International UK, praises sustainability issues mapping as “a most stimulating approach. It brings together things which ought to go together, but too frequently don’t.”

4) Sustainability Management Systems (SMS):
Develop a framework to ensure that environmental, social, and economic concerns are considered in tandem throughout your organization’s decision-making processes. Start by identifying and prioritizing sustainability aspects and impacts. Take it one step further by looking at legal requirements related to these impacts and evaluate your company’s current compliance. Collaborating with an environmental consultant can help during this process. Next, outline your company’s goals and objectives. Finally, educate and train your employees on using the SMS, and also periodically run audits to ensure that it’s carried out in the most effective manner possible.

5) Lifecycle Assessment:
Product design is critical. Gone are the days where the immediate product the only thing that matters, without any given thought to its afterlife. A cradle-to-cradle approach exhibits your company’s creativity and innovation and can, consequently, improve your bottom line. Whether it’s re-using your product or designing it in a manner that will keep it out of the landfill, build customer rapport and brand loyalty by taking the pressure off the disposal process for your products.  [See The Business Case for Life Cycle Assessment]

6) Sustainability/CSR Reporting:
CSR reporting has increased in popularity over the past few years, due to increasing government regulations as well as self-regulation by forward-thinking companies. It’s important that your consumer base has easy access to your latest and greatest efforts, in a way that doesn’t minimize what you’re doing. A simple and environmentally-friendly way to do this is to post your CSR reports on your website, in an easy to download PDF file or other accessible format. This is another area to ask for feedback from your number one fans: your stakeholders.   [See How Sustainability Reporting Can Help To Improve Your Bottomline]

7) Sustainability Branding:
Transparency is key in sustainability branding. For example, Clorox Green Works, when endorsed by the Sierra Club, was able to capture 42% of the market share in their first year! The market for natural cleaning products has since increased, paving the way for smaller brands like Seventh Generation and Method to reach to a broader customer base.   [See Don’t Cut CSR Spending: Reallocate to Build Your Brand]

However, be careful to avoid greenwashing and implement the entire CSR seven best practices I’ve described above. McDonald’s made this mistake when it attempted to change the background of its logo from red to green in order to appeal to European customers. McDonald’s quick leap to the final CSR step was implemented while still relying on a variety of unsustainable practices and suppliers. Transparency builds trust, while greenwashing will alienate your consumer base.   [See The 3 Basic Steps To Create Trust Through Corporate Social Responsibility ]and [See Authenticity is The Key to Rebuilding Trust]

Incorporating social responsibility hand-in-hand with sustainable practices will ensure that your company remains competitive in today’s consumer-savvy market. Don’t wait to get the word out on how your organization is doing its part!

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© 2010 – 2011, Cecilia Lu. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Cecilia Lu (2 Articles)

Cecilia Lu is the founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing, a green marketing agency dedicated the development of sustainable businesses and practices. As the Networking Ninja of Kiwano Marketing, her passion is forging relationships through a mix of public relations and social media. Cecilia has worked primarily with startups and non-profits in the past, and is well-versed in taking a big idea and small budget to the next level. Her years of experience in the ever-growing social media field provide valuable expertise for small businesses in both the strategy and implementation stages. The Ninja's drink of choice is a good single malt whisky. Get social: twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook

  • Lynn Anne Miller

    Great post, Cecilia, although I can’t resist mentioning that the Sierra Club endorsement of Clorox GreenWorks was highly controversial. Although Clorox prospered (and how much is due to the endorsement specifically vs. the products’ low price point will never be known), Sierra Club lost members and was dealt a blow to its image from which it has still not fully recovered. NGOs, particularly environmental NGOs, must be very careful about lending their hard-earned brand credibility to commercial interests.

  • Gemma Parmar

    I agree that prospective clients are more likely to trust companies that have a CSR strategy in place or are seen to be more environmentally friendly. However despite the benefits CSR can bring, many companies often still do not understand what CSR is or see it as a PR stunt for companies.

    You should also read this article on common CSR misconceptions, it also proves how useful a CSR programme can be for companies


  • Luke


    thanks for that post. I just wrote a short piece on CSR stakeholder engagement. A theme which seems to emerge more often in academic literature.

    Where can I read more about Sustainability Issues Mapping?




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