Corporate Social Responsibility: What Is It and How Can You Get Started?

Posted by SheaDavis on December 13, 2012

Corporate social responsibility started in the 1970s and primarily included a company or organization’s philanthropy and charitable giving. Today, the definition and actions have grown to encompass efforts to improve the lives of people and the circumstances of the communities companies serve. Those efforts are in a variety of areas, including:

  • Sustainability
  • Community health
  • Education
  • Youth opportunity
  • Women’s issues
  • Fair trade
  • Diversity

And as the scope has changed, so has the title that is used to describe the efforts. Today, companies also call corporate social responsibility such things as social responsibility, corporate conscience, sustainable responsibility and social performance.

Tied to business objectives and authentic

The name may be different, but smart companies are discovering that any efforts they undertake in the social responsibility space must make business sense and be tied to true business objectives. For example, a client in the healthcare industry focuses all its efforts to community health and education – two areas that impact its business and future.

Any efforts must be authentic. Critics will scrutinize any social responsibility works a company does; therefore, those works must be authentic to deflect some of the criticism. Being authentic also means that the program must have measurable results that are reported to stakeholders in a timely manner and that build year-over-year.

Getting started

The prep work you do before starting on a corporate social responsibility program will help your organization succeed. Before you commit, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this make sense for our company?
  2. Why are we doing this?
  3. What are our peer companies doing in this space?
  4. Does it feel “real?”
  5. Will we get buy-in from our employees?
  6. Who will we reach?
  7. What measurable objectives will we have?
  8. What will the outcomes be?
  9. Who needs to know about our efforts?
  10. Are there community not-for-profit organizations that we could partner with to improve our program?
  11. Do we have the budget and other resources to commit to make a difference?
  12. What are our bold goals we want to achieve?

If you answer all the questions, you are ready to get started. If you can’t answer or are unsure of an answer, do more research. You want your efforts to be authentic and make sense for your business.

What are some corporate social responsibility projects you have been involved with, and what were the keys to success? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.