Over the last decade, the concept of corporate social responsibility (or CSR as it’s more widely known) has been widely embraced by the business sector. In an age where consumers are increasingly socially aware and information about how companies conduct themselves is just a few mouse-clicks away, being a good corporate citizen makes great business sense.
The same goes for the nonprofit sector. Some may argue that charities don’t need to concern themselves with CSR because doing social good is already at the heart of their mission. But the truth is, embedding CSR throughout your organisation will not only super-charge the social benefits you deliver, but it will also demonstrate to donors and supporters that you practice what you preach.
Recent research reinforces just how important this is. According to a 2018 YouGov poll, the vast majority of Australians (87%) strongly support CSR, while six in ten (58%) believe businesses have a responsibility to ensure their supply chain does not harm the environment. While the pollsters didn’t explicitly ask respondents whether these feelings extended to nonprofits, you’d better believe that charities don’t get a free pass. In fact, it stands to reason that the philanthropy sector should be held to an equal, if not even higher standard, given all that we stand for and believe in.
What does CSR look like for charities?
Naturally, a charity CSR strategy will differ in certain ways from a corporate strategy – for a start, it’s unlikely to include donating or raising funds for other causes. But there’s still a wide range of ways you can incorporate sound CSR practices into your organisation, regardless of your size. Here are five ways to get started:
- Promote workforce diversity. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a diversity recruitment quota. You can encourage inclusion and diversity in less official ways, like celebrating traditions and holidays from a range of cultures or fostering a more tolerant and inclusive workplace environment.
- Implement a sustainability plan with achievable, measurable goals. This might include objectives like going paperless, installing recycling facilities in your staff kitchen, and exploring ways to reduce your water consumption and waste.
- Offer a payroll giving program. Many people employed by charities will have philanthropic tendencies, so why not make it official? Offering staff, the option to donate in their pay-check is a win-win for everybody.
- Launch an employee volunteering program. Similarly, your team may already volunteer in their free time, but creating a program that allows them to do this during working hours is a powerful statement about your commitment to social good. Giving all team members a number of volunteering days per year is a simple but effective way to enhance your benefits to the community and score points with staff and supporters.
- Make sure you have an ethically-sourced supply chain. This one requires a little more effort, but it shouldn’t be overlooked: being associated with a supplier with ethically -questionable practices carries a huge reputational risk for your organisation. Wherever you need to outsource services, from transport and catering through to helpline providers and professional services, seek out partners who share your values and beliefs. This kind of info might not be readily available, so be prepared to actively demand CSR principles from your suppliers and ask for evidence of their commitments.
Once you’re up and running, don’t forget to share your internal CSR measures and achievements with the wider community. Add a CSR page to your website, include an update on your progress in your annual report, send out email blasts to your followers celebrating your successes. Not only does it set a great example to other organisations, but it proves to the world that your charity is genuinely concerned with the greater good.