Who is your brand and what do they represent? If a stranger asked you who you are, would your first response be your job title? A banker, architect, or PR professional may be what you do, but is it who you are? When given the task to create a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan for your brand the first step should be to figure out the ‘who’ of your brand, not the ‘what’. Simon Mainwaring once said, “If a brand genuinely wants to make a social contribution, it should start with who they are, not what they do. For only when a brand has defined itself and its core values can it identify causes or social responsibility initiatives that are in alignment with its authentic brand story.” People want to know that there are real people behind a brand, not just a corporation built of machines. So the first task in building a CSR plan is to humanize your brand.
Review your corporate culture and select the right cause: What’s trendy VS. what represents you
Some trending areas that companies engaging in CSR are talking about are climate change, social justice and brand transparency. These are all great and cover a wide range of topics and movements, but they may not be inline with the identity of your brand. We can’t be the leader in every movement, so rather than just picking what is trendy it's important to chose what is right for your brand. So take your time and do your research.
Ask the right questions before moving forward with a program
Ask the right questions to determine where your company is and where it is going. Who are we and why did we set out to become who we are? What causes reflect the things we care most about. How will this CSR plan boost or damage our brands reputation? How can we create a unique contribution to the cause? CSR needs time and patience. Don’t rush into a CSR plan simply because ‘everyone else is doing it.’
Get the support of executives
The first step in getting executives to support a CSR plan is to find out what things they care about, after all much of the company’s identity and culture originated with the CEO. Allow leadership to participate and express causes of their interest. As stated by Deloitte, “Social impact is increasingly becoming part of a company’s growth strategy and executives should be intentional about their choices.”
At the same time, executives are busy people. Make sure to do plenty of research before pitching your CSR ideas to the top. Good ideas that are underprepared may never see the light on the other side. So rather than wasting a good idea, cook it till its nice and ready, and then have a well organized pitch to share with the executives.
Prepare to measure results
Before you even put a CSR plan in place, determine how it is you will measure the successfulness or unsuccessfulness of your strategy. According to Strauss-group, “Whether it’s focusing too much on process vs. results or forgetting about the power of qualitative results, measuring the success of sustainability efforts is very much a work-in-progress.
Learn from the mistakes or success of others.
NIKE, for example, has risen to the top for its CSR efforts, but that didn't come without a few roadblocks on the way. “As one of the first corporations to have a Vice-President for Corporate Responsibility and to publish an annual CSR Report, the company has done a lot to mitigate public opinion, establish its brand as representative of a much more committed corporate citizen, and ‘insure’ itself against any repeat of the consumer boycotts it faced in the mid-1990s.”
Focus on monitoring progress and results.
Sometimes, plans may need to be tweaked while they are put into action. Monitoring progress should happen before, during, and after to avoid any serious damage. Using news monitoring tools such as SophoTree, can help companies monitor their mentions in the news and on twitter. SophoTree also allows users to create alerts so that companies can know in real time every time their business is being mentioned.
Corporations are under more pressure than ever to get involved in social movements. Whether large or small, companies involved are one step ahead of those that aren't. CSR shows a human side to a corporation, and depending on what cause a company may be involved in, it lets the public know who a company truly is.