The early days of a startup are nothing less than organized chaos. You’re fixated on your product, monetization, securing assets, and hiring. In all this pandemonium, it’s not unusual for corporate social responsibility (CSR) to fall between the cracks. However, that simply can’t be allowed to happen. As a startup, CSR should be incorporated into your business plan from day one.
Corporate social responsibility is a sweeping term used to describe a business’s efforts to further social good and sustainability in some way. It’s also plays an essential role in a startup’s success.
Today’s consumers are more socially aware than ever before — millennials in particular. Eighty one percent of millennials expect companies to engage in some form of CSR. They believe that all businesses should have a core purpose beyond profits, whether it be helping people, the planet, or both.
Why Is CSR Good For Business?
Evidence has linked an investment in corporate social responsibility with increased financial performance. Why? Because engaging in CSR from the very beginning demonstrates to potential customers that your company cares about more than just profits. This helps to forge strong connections and relationships with consumers, and establishes a respectable (and profitable) foundation in the community.
Corporate social responsibility also gives your startup the advantage of developing a positive reputation early on. Conscientious customers will flock to your brand and — providing they had a good experience — send more money your way through valuable word of mouth marketing.
Furthermore, by prioritizing CSR, you can boost recruitment and employee retention efforts. Employees derive a sense of purpose from working for a company that takes pride in giving back to the community. Perhaps that’s why a 2015 study by Cone Communication found that 62 percent of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. Simply put, a properly managed corporate social initiative not only increases employee morale and motivation, it also bonds the entire organization, creating a positive and cohesive company culture.
How To Do It
CSR can take many forms. Some companies donate products to those in need, such as TOMS shoes “One for One” program. Other organizations focus their attention inward, to their employees’ quality of life. Take Starbucks for example; they partnered with Arizona State University to pay 100 percent of their employees’ tuition. For the founders of startups, programs such as these may sound daunting — talk about hemorrhaging money — but CSR doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are just a few ways you can build CSR initiatives into your business plan (and allow them to grow with your company).
Create a Sustainable Supply Chain
Consumers are no longer happy being left in the dark when it comes to the supply chain behind the products they purchase. They want to know where the products are coming from, what the environmental impact of the manufacturing process is, and what the conditions are like for the people who assembled the products.
As the owner/operator of your company, it’s absolutely critical you know the ins and outs of the business practices of your vendors, partners, and suppliers. You need to ensure the members of your supply chain are in compliance with local laws, labor and wage standards, and safety and environmental requirements. If you find any weak links in the chain, it’s your job to cut them out and find partners who are as socially responsible as you are. By doing so, you’ll prove to your customers that you truly care about the wellbeing of all who are involved in the creation of your product.
Product and service donations increase not only the positive social impact your company can make, but also the user base of your products or services. Take time to think about your assets and how they can be used to better the community. For instance, if you manufacture products, they can be donated to those in need. If you provide a service, offer it up pro bono to nonprofits who would benefit from its assistance. Or, if you want to make things even easier, pledge a percentage of your profits to a charity of your choice.
Before you pick out a big, national charity, take a moment to browse through local community initiatives. They are often in desperate need of funds as they have much smaller budgets to spend on marketing campaigns to recruit volunteers or fundraise. Besides, a partnership with a local charity can help build long-term support for your company from those within your community!
Volunteering is a fantastic way to enable your employees to serve community needs while developing their professional skills and team building at the same time. There are so many different opportunities for volunteering, whether it be with national organizations like the Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity, or local organizations like homeless shelters,
soup kitchens, children’s hospitals, or humane societies. Employees can also volunteer their time to participate in donation drives for food banks, environmental cleanup days, and fundraising activities.
One way to engage in corporate social responsibility is to create a diverse workforce. Start early, and make sure diversity is reflected at senior levels of the company. Remember, diversity is about more than race and gender — it also involves age, ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. When working on your recruiting strategy, make sure to include initiatives to hire people from groups that are historically underemployed, such as veterans and the homeless.
Corporate social responsibility should be the backbone of your business strategy. Beyond all else — brand reputation, marketing, recruitment, and profits — CSR helps to make our communities (and ultimately, the world) a better place to live. And at the end of the day, if you find your company has made even the smallest change for good, then you’ve proved that corporate social responsibility is truly invaluable — as are you.