Faced with the climate crisis, CSR (corporate social responsibility) is becoming more and more important for organizations. What’s behind the trend? Implementing sustainable initiatives that have a positive impact on the environment, our society, and/or the economy is also good for business. These issues affect big business as much as they do small and medium-sized businesses.
Despite the growing importance of these topics, one out of three companies still lacks a dedicated CSR budget.¹ This is often due to a lack of resources, but also lack of awareness. To help you implement your CSR strategy, we’re covering two areas in this article:
- the key arguments to convince your team and/or your management to take an interest in this subject
- the steps to follow to develop an effective strategy and involve all employees in the process
Although 70% of companies want to become responsible, only 30% have actually implemented a CSR strategy.²
Yet engaging in such an approach can have many beneficial effects for your organization, as it can contribute to:
- developing your employer brand, which in turn helps attract and retain more talent (especially the younger generations, who are prone to perceive CSR issues as more of a priority)
- rallying teams behind common values and initiatives
- strengthening the sense of belonging
- giving meaning to each person’s work
- increasing employee engagement
- improving your internal practices (such as work methods or governance processes)
- improving performance (companies that implement CSR practices are 13% more efficient than those that do not)³
- reducing your carbon footprint
- lending more legitimacy to your social, environmental, and economic projects
- standing out from your competitors
How can I implement a CSR strategy?
Now that you know why you should implement a CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy, let’s look at the how. Whether you are at the beginning of your reflection or you have already implemented concrete actions, these 6 steps should help you see things more clearly.
1. Create a framework for the process
First and foremost, start by designating a project manager and/or a team (or committee) that will take the lead on CSR issues. The size of this team will of course depend on the size of your company—but also on how you want to prioritize your sustainable approach.
Once you’ve identified the CSR team, you’ll also need to think about which department you want to attach to this team (for example, management, HR, or internal communication). In a third of companies, the team is integrated into the general management, while in a quarter of companies, it is an independent department entirely.3
This organization will have a direct impact on the time, budget, and legitimacy of your CSR strategy. Therefore, don’t hesitate to survey your CSR team as well as employees interested in the subject to help you manage the process.
2. Conduct an audit
The next step is to conduct a CSR audit. This will allow you to take stock in your company’s performance in terms of CSR, and in particular to identify good and bad practices already in place in your company.
Often carried out by a consulting firm, this social responsibility audit will serve as the basis for your CSR strategy. Once your first CSR initiatives have been launched, it will also allow you to measure your results and verify whether the initiatives are meeting the expectations of your employees.
For best accuracy, audits need to be conducted regularly and consistently, throughout the implementation of your CSR strategy.
3. Establish an action plan
Now it’s time to develop your CSR strategy. This action plan allows you to define:
- the goals you want to achieve (again, think SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-related)
- the internal (employees, unions, managers) and external (customers, shareholders, partners) stakeholders to be involved in your CSR strategy
- the actions you wish to prioritize for each angle (environmental, social, and economic)
- the budget you wish to allocate to the implementation of these actions
- the tools to be deployed to help you implement your CSR strategy (for example, a platform to measure your carbon footprint, or an intranet to communicate your initiatives)
To prioritize your CSR actions, you can use a materiality matrix, which allows you to prioritize your different issues according to your objectives and the expectations of your various stakeholders. To do this, you’ll need to:
- define your CSR challenges
- survey your stakeholders on the importance of these issues
- build your matrix with a spreadsheet or other dedicated tool
There’s no secret method to successfully implementing your CSR approach: you’ve got to communicate—both with your internal and external stakeholders.
- plan information meetings (physical, hybrid, or online) on your CSR approach
- make dedicated publications to present your CSR initiatives in more detail, and encourage employees to give their opinion
- poll employees on the actions implemented via surveys
- gather and organize all the information related to your CSR projects in a knowledge base that remains accessible to all
Some enterprise social networks—including Talkspirit—also allow you to invite people outside your organization to your platform. This is a good solution to consider if you want to centralize all your communications in one place.
Externally, you can also highlight your CSR commitments on your company’s and your employees’ social networks, and in the media (via press relations campaigns). However, be careful not to greenwash and communicate authentically so that your approach is perceived as legitimate.
5. Train and mobilize teams
While 70% of employees are aware of the concept of CSR, only 29% know “precisely what it is.”⁴ Which just goes to show that training shouldn’t be neglected!
According to a Cegos study, nearly three-quarters of employees believe that their organization should set up CSR training for all those involved in the process. This training will notably enable them to:
- define what CSR is and isn’t, and make employees aware of the issues at stake
- give meaning to the CSR approach by explaining why and how it will be implemented, and what impact it will have on the business and the organization as a whole
- share best practices to adopt on a daily basis—both on the employee and manager ends
If this training isn’t mandatory, think about communicating enough on them in various ways to let your employees know that they exist. Don’t hesitate to organize dedicated training for managers so they can be exemplary and help their teams adopt responsible practices.
Eighty-six percent of employees currently say they are ready to get involved in their company’s CSR policy.⁴ So, remember to involve them in your CSR thinking by conducting regular surveys, and incorporating their suggestions into your strategy.
6. Measure the impact of your actions
Implementing CSR actions is one thing, but measuring their effectiveness is better! According to this CSR barometer, 73% of companies have difficulty objectifying and measuring the impact of their actions.
To facilitate your approach, we recommend you track specific CSR indicators:
- environmental indicators: your greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprint, energy consumption, your percentage of recycled waste, etc.
- social indicators: the professional equality index (to measure the pay gap between men and women), the rate of employees having received training, the level of seniority of employees, their job satisfaction rate, etc.
- economic indicators: the rate of investments dedicated to products and services to support local communities and/or responsible investments, turnover, SROI (social return on investment), etc.
In order to implement a CSR strategy, you need to surround yourself with the right people, co-construct a CSR action plan with them, set up dedicated actions, and communicate with your internal and external stakeholders.
These initiatives will help you to improve your environmental, social, and economic impact through the implementation of volunteer actions, investments in the local economy, and responsible digital practices. Interested in that last point? Talk to one of our experts to find out how to go digital in a sustainable way:
¹ Open-Source CSR Barometer 2021
² HR Maps infographic on CSR and employee engagement
³ Study “Corporate Social Responsibility and Competitiveness“
⁴ Cegos 2021 barometer on corporate social responsibility