Learn how to jumpstart CSR at your organization
In this article:
- What is corporate social responsibility?
- How a B Corp value system can help your company achieve its CSR goals
- Build a workplace your employees are proud of
- Encourage a culture of giving back
- Do no harm in your supply chain
- Join the fight against climate change
- Use business as a force for good
Your company seems to have it all — in-demand products or services, a workforce that feels like family, inspiring leadership, and plans for sustainable growth in the years to come.
And yet, energy feels low. Employee engagement has waned. Leads are going cold. Inbound job applications are a trickle rather than a stream. Something is missing.
If that “something” missing is a higher purpose, then it’s time to take action. What your company needs is a framework to start using business as a force for good; it’s time to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR), stat.
The fact is, we all want to contribute to something greater than ourselves — and that affects the way we interact with businesses as employees, as consumers, and as investors. Almost 85% of Millennials in the workforce believe making a positive difference in the world is more important than professional recognition. Consumers experience enhanced customer satisfaction and feelings of loyalty when companies demonstrate a genuine CSR strategy. And 83% of investors are more likely to invest in a business well-known for its social responsibility.
If your organization is struggling to imbue positive impact into its everyday operations, learn from the movement of for-profit companies that use business to solve society’s most pressing issues: B Corporations.
In this article, we’ll explain how working like a B Corporation translates to a higher rate of success when it comes to achieving CSR goals. We’ll take a closer look at what it means to be a B Corporation and translate B Corp best practices into directly applicable CSR frameworks that your business can (and should) try today. As we’ve said before, it may not be easy to become a Certified B Corporation; but, with a little dedication, you can get the ball rolling on CSR initiatives in no time.
What is corporate social responsibility?
“Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.” — Investopedia.com
Companies of any size can use business for good, but CSR is typically a strategy for large companies that have grown their businesses to a point where they can focus on giving back to society. Broadly speaking, CSR programs are a way for these companies to publicly commit to — and be held accountable for — creating a positive impact on the world.
CSR is a means of practicing corporate citizenship (the understanding that companies have an impact on their local communities and economy, and therefore are responsible for doing the right thing). By engaging in corporate social responsibility, companies can be good corporate citizens.
CSR initiatives fall under many buckets, including:
- Environmental impact. To combat climate change, huge companies — like Amazon, Best Buy, Unilever, and Microsoft — have committed to reducing their carbon footprints and achieving net-zero carbon by 2040.
- Battling inequality. To date, over 40 major companies in California have pledged to achieve gender pay equity, including Salesforce, Apple, Airbnb, GAP Inc., and Uber.
- Philanthropic and charitable giving. TOMS, a business with CSR at the heart of its operations, famously donates one pair of shoes per every purchased pair and supports hygiene, health, and community development initiatives in more than 50 countries.
But why exactly do corporations practice CSR?
One reason is that it simply makes business sense. CSR initiatives can align a business’s purpose and values with its social and environmental impact and result in something truly magical: purposeful work, more engaged employees, and even higher profitability. (According to Forbes, companies that engage in CSR have higher profit margins, higher valuations, and lower risk than those that do not.)
Yet this shouldn’t be the only reason companies engage in corporate citizenship. In fact, studies have shown that a company’s CSR efforts can have an ineffective or negative impact on consumers and employees, respectively, if they are seen as self-serving.
It seems that, in a world where issues like rising inequality and rampant climate change go hand in hand with an unparalleled access to information, sustainable development is top of mind for all global citizens — and that’s affecting the way we do business.
How a B Corp value system can help your company achieve its CSR goals
As we mentioned above, corporate social responsibility initiatives can backfire if they’re disingenuous. For that reason, it’s important for your company to weave its dedication to good throughout the business structure — the B Corp way.
A little about B Corps:
The B Corp certification process is arduous (about 33% of companies that apply will achieve certification), and requires an unequivocal commitment to balancing profit and purpose. Certified B Corps must meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. The nonprofit B Lab — the governing body behind the B Corp movement — certifies businesses based on how they score on a rigorous test called “the B Impact Assessment”. Unlike traditional corporations, B Corps have a legal obligation to consider how their actions impact their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
After many months of thorough vetting, companies can receive their B Corp badges by signing off on a final document: The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence. The uniting tenets of the B Corporation belief system are:
- Be the change you seek in the world
- Conduct all business with care for people and place
- Aspire to do no harm and benefit all, through products, practices, and profits
- Act with the understanding that business, people, and the planet depend on each other, and are thus responsible for one other and for future generations
By pledging allegiance to this value system, businesses demonstrate genuine commitments to the B Corp mindset across all business operations — from corporate governance to supply chain processes.
To kick off a CSR strategy at your organization, begin by evaluating if/how your current corporate code aligns with these core values. You don’t need to completely reinvent your company’s hallmark product or service to be a good corporate citizen — but if you make like a B Corp and thread these values into your business structure, your CSR strategy is far more likely to succeed.
Ready to start thinking like a B Corp? Let’s get started.
Build a workplace your employees are proud of
B Corporations understand the value of their employees, and are committed to creating a workplace that ensures the ongoing success, happiness, and well-being of their workers. Your employees are your key stakeholders, after all!
Building a workplace environment worthy of pride isn’t limited to treating workers with respect; it means organizationally committing to a high standard of ethics. To avoid a CSR strategy that rings hollow, your company should adopt an ethical code in its value system and mission statement.
Take a page from the B Corp book and consider making these changes to build a workplace your employees are proud of:
- Weave ethics, purpose, and sustainability into your corporate mission
- Take a stance on social issues and speak out against social injustice
- Promote an equitable workplace by offering job training programs or internships to marginalized or underrepresented communities
- Commit to diversity in the workforce across race, gender, and sexual orientation
- Offer all employees a living wage, healthcare, and ample paid time off
- Give employees sustained growth, training, and learning opportunities (for example, Starbucks offers employees free college tuition in its College Achievement Plan)
Encourage a culture of giving back
Civic engagement and giving are two ways that B Corporations ensure their positive impacts on local communities.
If your company doesn’t already directly support underserved communities, charitable giving and volunteering are two easy corporate social responsibility strategies to implement. Charitable giving ensures that support goes to those who need it the most, and volunteering is not only a great way to get involved, but it also leads to higher levels of employee happiness and engagement.
Here are some ways you can create a culture of giving back:
- Donate a portion of companywide revenue to nonprofit organizations
- Coordinate charitable giving opportunities for employees, and match employee contributions
- Encourage employees to give back and participate in the community by offering paid time off to volunteer at nonprofits or work at polling places
- Recognize a National Day of Service (Martin Luther King Jr. Day or 9/11, for example) for the organization to spend volunteering together
- Create and fund scholarships for underserved populations
Do no harm in your supply chain
B Corporations do no harm and benefit all through their products and practices. They source, manufacture, and partner responsibly (these five B Corps in particular enforce high sustainability standards for their supply chains) — and so should you.
We understand that the larger your company is, the more complex the supply chain, and the more difficult it becomes to ensure top-to-bottom CSR implementation. Still, we can’t stress enough the importance of a responsible supply chain. There is no value in creating a CSR strategy if your supply chain relies on unethical business practices (not to mention, you’ll set yourself up for a public relations nightmare).
To build a supply chain worthy of B Corp status, you’ll have to examine it with a fine-tooth comb. Your best bet is to start this process from the ground up. Here’s how:
- Ensure your company’s manufacturing processes don’t rely on unfair labor practices, or contribute to human rights violations
- Provide healthy, sanitary, and safe working conditions for all employees
- Source products ethically and sustainably (for example, Starbucks has reached 99% ethically sourced coffee)
- Consider how product manufacturing impacts the local ecosystem, environment, and conservation efforts, as well as prevents pollution
- Use environmentally friendly packaging for your goods
- Reduce wasteful resource consumption with more efficient supply chain processes
[Want to streamline your supply chain for good? Download our white paper, “Solving Inefficiencies with Green Freight Shipping Solutions.”]
Join the fight against climate change
B Corporations are committed to building a sustainable future — and they’re 250% more likely to be carbon neutral than other companies.
There are many ways to improve your organization’s environmental sustainability efforts, such as optimizing internal processes to reduce energy consumption, and investing externally in programs and partnerships that will fight climate change.
Second, take your corporate social responsibility strategy to the next level by considering how your company’s partnerships contribute to a more sustainable future for all. By partnering with B Corps or companies that meet high environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) standards, your business demonstrates a genuine commitment to responsible business practices.
Here’s how your business can start fighting climate change like a B Corp:
- Set up recycling programs at your office
- Install renewable energy systems to reduce your business’s carbon footprint
- Partner with, and invest in, like-minded companies with high ESG standards
- Erase the environmental impact of shipping your freight with carbon neutral shared truckload shipping
If your company wants to lower its environmental impact immediately, carbon neutral freight shipping from Flock Freight is the answer. Flock Freight earned its status as the only B Corp in freight shipping thanks to its shared truckload solution, which automatically reduces emissions from each shipment by up to 40%. Beginning March 2021, every shipment that moves with guaranteed shared truckload service — FlockDirect — is carbon neutral, at no extra cost to shippers. In true B Corp fashion, Flock Freight made the decision to wipe out any remaining environmental impact of FlockDirect shipments through a carbon offset program in partnership with Carbonfund.org.
Use business as a force for good
B Corps are a global movement of businesses that balance profit and purpose — rather than blindly pursue their bottom lines — and consider how their actions impact their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Even if your company isn’t on the path to B Corp certification, you can use the B Corp value system to redefine what being a “better business” looks like and achieve success through genuine CSR activities.
Here are the immediate benefits of using the power of business for good:
- Improve brand reputation
- Attract like-minded customers and partners
- Boost employee engagement and retention
- Give your work purpose
- Create a better future for all
It’s time to build a sustainable economy, together. Are you ready?