Every company has a cause today, and social responsibility has become a major determinant of whether consumers want to do business with your company. That said, social responsibility is still a highly-contested topic, and many believe it’s either unnecessary or even harmful.
In this article, we’ll take a look at social responsibility, what it is, and how it affects company culture (both internally for employees and externally via the perception of the company).
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the idea that a company should do more than benefit itself. Instead, it should look outward to see what positive changes can be made in society to benefit the good of all. In other words, “…businesses, in addition to maximizing shareholder value, must act in a manner benefiting society, not just the bottom line.”
Examples of CSR
Social responsibility mainly takes four forms: volunteering, environmental changes, philanthropy, and ethical labor practices. Examples of CSR include:
- Purchasing Fair Trade Certified ingredients
- Reducing the carbon footprint
- Donating a portion of profit to a worthy cause (donating to a nonprofit clinic, for example)
- Encouraging employees to volunteer or hosting annual holiday volunteer events for employees
- Organizing a canned food drive for needy families
- Accepting towels/pet food for a local pet shelter
- Doing pro-bono work for a nonprofit (faith-based organizations, humanitarian efforts, etc)
The Importance of Social Responsibility
How is company culture impacted by CSR? Social responsibility is just as important – if not more so – to company employees as they are to customers. In fact, 93% of employees feel that companies should lead with purpose. This shows that not only should employers consider enacting social responsibility projects throughout their companies, but they should make sure employees know about them.
Almost 70% of employees said they wouldn’t work for a company without a strong purpose, and 60% said they’d take a pay cut in order to work at a company with a purpose. It’s clear that, for employees, social responsibility and purpose have a high impact on company culture – making 90% of employees feel more inspired, motivated, and loyal to the business.
Do Customers Care About It?
To put things succinctly, customers care a great deal about social responsibility. 70% of Americans feel it’s somewhat or very important for companies to participate in social responsibility initiatives. 77% of consumers want to purchase from companies whose sense of social responsibility mirrors their own, and 73% of investors look to invest in companies that work to improve the environment and society.
What Do Detractors Say?
That said, social responsibility requires companies to tread lightly. Although 55% of consumers want companies to take a stand on social and political issues, 54% have stopped using products from a company because of its public position on an issue. Social responsibility can, then, become quite a sticky subject: is it better to say nothing or take a stand and potentially lose customers?
A study on the effects of corporate social responsibility showed another startling fact: that employees tend to lie/engage in dishonest behavior the more corporate social responsibility they feel. The researchers understood this effect in terms of moral self-licensing, or the permission that people give themselves to do something bad once they’ve done something good.
(That said, people also act unethically when they feel they’re in an unethical environment, and when they aren’t switching tasks often enough – two issues that Corinne Purtill of Quartz feels are solved by social responsibility programs. A proponent of social responsibility, she encourages employers to strike a balance between creating programs without letting CSR go to employees’ heads.)
How to Start a CSR Program
Because of the touchy nature of certain social responsibility measures, a great starting place for CSR is research. It would be in your best interest to conduct some market research on your customer base and employees to see where their values align and if yours are similar.
From there, you can do the following:
- Find out the CSR impact that would be most meaningful to customers and employees.
- Discover what types of initiatives your company can handle. The type you choose could depend on your employees’ bandwidth, finances, etc.
- Set measurable goals to give the team something to work toward, and find a way to measure that impact before you even get started.
- Find relevant organizations to partner with. By meeting the needs of adjacent programs, you’ll gain a greater understanding of how to solve common problems.
A Look At Some of Our CSR Efforts
At Matcha Design, we believe in giving back to the community on both a global and local scale. We’ve been contributing to Kiva since 2009 to assist entrepreneurs across-the-world in securing short-term loans for their businesses. On a local scale, we partner with local churches and non-profits in Tulsa, Oklahoma to promote community outreach programs, which do a world of good for needy families and individuals.
More Great Resources on the Matcha Blog
Social responsibility is an important issue, but not one without its potential pitfalls. We hope that this article finds you better informed about what social responsibility is and what to take into account when developing your own social responsibility project.