New Years is often the time when businesses across the country rethink their CSR strategies, but I think this theory is flawed! Corporate Social Responsibility is a commitment that should always be at the heart of your operation, rather than a rushed job in the beginning of the year, only to be forgotten about later on. Businesses can often forget that, as well as a meaningful form of engagement with stakeholders, CSR is a long-term investment in the community and the environment. Engaging your staff in the process throughout the year also has a tangible impact on their wellbeing and resulting productivity day-to-day, so it's a tool that should be used more.
For me, CSR is a longstanding commitment that should surpass my lifetime, not something that should grab the headlines for five minutes and then be forgotten about. While it can be intimidating for small businesses because of resource and time, there are some easy ways to incorporate CSR into your annual plan that don't have to break the bank or take up too much time.
Align your company and the cause
Supporting charities and causes is great, but it is even better if you can align them to your values. As a waste disposal company, we like to be involved with road safety charities to ensure that we are doing the most we can to protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Do your research and spend some time considering the values of each prospective charity. It can become an obvious PR stunt if you support a charity that has nothing to do with your work and leaves people questioning the motive!
Remember your roots
Before setting your eyes on global causes, start small and establish yourself in your local community. This is a great way to ensure that you are making a real difference with your work. Something as simple as organising events with local schools or inviting your local MP to your offices can go a long way. As part of this, you should also look at your company culture, as this might give you some new ideas as to where your CSR focus can be. As an Irish family business, we are still very much involved in our Irish roots, supporting Irish clubs in London and acting as mentors in societies, such as the Women's Irish Network. Think about what in particular is important to your founders, your employees and your company culture as a whole.
It's a team effort
CSR can easily become the priority of the CEO, but remember to get the whole team's input when planning your annual strategy and get them involved in the activities. Every year we create an events calendar that captures all the worthy causes that we celebrate and staff donate to, so that everyone has enough notice to donate and work on their outfits! We also actively encourage staff to make donations of charities that are close to their heart, with our regular dress down Friday money going to a new charity every month, as chosen by individual team members. By involving the whole company, you will be able to have a much broader, yet personal, CSR strategy.
It's not just about the money
When people think of CSR, the first thing that comes to mind is the money and donations, but there are numerous non-financial aspects of CSR that you can adopt which have just as great an impact. A key part is transparency, and we embrace this attitude through sharing our training and research with our whole industry. By making resources available online for free, you can help improve industry standards, whether that's in health and safety, best practice, or anything that impacts your industry on a daily basis.
While it is natural for business owners to rush to implement a CSR initiative at the beginning of the year, when charity work is rife across the country and we're encouraged to give more, a long-term strategy is far more beneficial for the local community and your business. There are numerous ways in which you can integrate the work into the day-to-day running of your business without using up resources or breaking the bank. By involving your staff, you'll likely see a positive impact in their wellbeing and productivity. I'm a firm believer that CSR is for life, not just for January.