If you work at a business that has recently begun to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR), then first of all, congratulations! You are now part of an international movement toward creating better businesses and a healthier world. According to Wikipedia, CSR is "a company's sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates". Through CSR efforts, businesses like the Newmont Mining Corporation and the ABC have made major contributions to social issues, such as human rights and environmental sustainability.
Committing to CSR enables businesses to make a difference in the world community, but it can also open up a world of questions. First and foremost is the question of where to begin. There is no right or wrong way to start a CSR campaign, but here is a list of five suggestions to assist you:
Take a CSR training class
Want to learn about CSR from the experts? The Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR) offers online and in-person training courses on a variety of topics. You can also find corporate philanthropy webinars and events on the Pro Bono Australia website. Note: most classes and events require a fee.
Reach out to a not-for-profit organisation
If there is an organisation about which you are passionate, why not contact someone who works there? Even if you do not form a business partnership, the conversation may help you figure out which social causes fit well with your company. Arup is a great example of a corporation that has formed lasting relationships with local and international not-for-profit organisations. Check out its Community Engagement programme for inspiration.
Develop an official CSR statement for your business
According to an article from Entrepreneur.com, a business is more likely to succeed with CSR efforts when it integrates a "commitment to social good" into its foundation. What better way to do this than by devising a unique, company-specific CSR policy?
Instead of initially focusing on large-scale changes, try taking a step back and evaluating current business practises. Consider what small adjustments could be made to immediately make your company more socially responsible. When New Chapter's Sustainability Manager wanted to increase the company's environmental efforts, she first spoke with the individual department heads. They gave her insights into how departmental recycling, waste management and energy usage could be more efficient. While New Chapter has also enacted larger business changes, these smaller adjustments played an important role in making it a more socially responsible company.
When in doubt, doing research is always a great place to start. Here are some websites to help you on your quest:
Whether your business begins its CSR efforts with big or small actions, with a class or a conversation, the important thing is that you are starting. You have made the commitment to create a socially responsible company, and that is already a victory. Now all that is left is to take your first step and get going!