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CSR: Strategies for building a socially responsible business

Employees working at a food donation drive

In a competitive world, where businesses are often too focused on chasing profits, it's important to remember the value of being socially responsible. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to companies taking actions that benefit society. While it's not a legal requirement, it's an increasingly crucial part of running a business today.

Many studies have shown that customers prefer to support businesses that engage in CSR initiatives. However, engaging in CSR is about more than looking good or performing a moral duty. It's critical to identify important issues and take real steps to address them. For example, at Zoho, we are deeply dedicated to driving rural revival initiatives. Despite possessing the talent, many individuals in rural areas lack access to good opportunities. Our ongoing mission is to bring forward the potential of rural talent pools and extend employment opportunities to deserving candidates from often-overlooked areas.

Meanwhile, monoliths like Apple and Amazon have been investing heavily in their own CSR activities to contribute to a better world. For several years, Apple has run a recycling and trade-in program that encourages customers to return old devices to promote the responsible disposal of electronic waste. Similarly, Amazon has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and intends to operate fully on renewable energy by 2025. These initiatives are important, because they raise awareness and motivate others to follow suit. While smaller companies may not have the same resources as these industry giants, even modest steps towards CSR can have a lasting impact.

In this blog post, we'll look at strategies and tips that can help improve the outcomes of your business' CSR activities.

Start small 

For businesses venturing into CSR activities for the first time, the key is to start small. Commence your CSR journey by engaging in simple initiatives, like planting trees or adopting sustainable practices. Once you are able to attain short-term goals, you can consider more serious long-term strategies that align with your company's values. This approach allows you to discover your strengths and gain a deeper understanding of your potential challenges.

Work with the right vendors and partners 

Brand associations and partnerships can heavily influence customer perceptions. While collaborating with the right partners can amplify the positive outcomes of your efforts, partnering with brands that promote conflicting values could harm your reputation. If you are considering associating with a business or a vendor, it's necessary to be extra cautious and do your research to make sure their values align with your own.

Prioritise your local community 

There are many good reasons why a business should actively contribute to the well-being of its local community. In addition to helping the local economy grow, it can be a good way to show your appreciation for the support you have received. Therefore, it's important to familiarise yourself with your local community's needs and tailor your CSR efforts effectively. It's also a good idea to remember that when your CSR initiatives are aligned with your products and services, they are more likely resonate deeply with your audience and feel authentic. For example, if you run a salon, you can sponsor and support beauty and mental well-being initiatives.

Involve your employees 

Your employees are the face of your organisation, and involving them in CSR activities can bring substantial advantages to your business. When employees are genuinely invested in CSR, it sends a powerful signal to customers and stakeholders that you're fostering a culture of social responsibility. Employee involvement can also boost morale and overall engagement. Make sure to consider your employees' feedback and suggestions about CSR activities and ensure that their contributions are duly recognised and appreciated.

Measure the impact 

CSR should be about making a difference—not just a grand show. To know if your CSR efforts are making a difference, you must measure their impacts on society. This means choosing the right key performance indicators to track your progress and the effects of your actions. Key indicators can be quantitative or qualitative, depending on the specific goals of your CSR program. For example, if your goal is reducing environmental impact, you must measure your ecological footprint. This can be done by checking whether there's been a decrease in your energy consumption, or by weighing your waste and recycling output on a weekly basis.

Share your story 

Sharing your CSR activities publicly can benefit your business and the community you serve. It can motivate others to support your initiatives, while letting the world know you care about more than business transactions. When people hear about the genuine motivation behind your CSR endeavours directly from you, they may develop a stronger sense of loyalty and trust towards your brand. Consider having a dedicated page on your website to provide updates on your progress or using social media platforms to share insights and milestones from your CSR journey.

We hope the strategies and tips shared in this blog encourage you to engage in meaningful CSR efforts. Are there any more suggestions you'd like to add? Let us know in the comments.

Read next: The significance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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