Sunday, April 23, 2017

CSR initiative – the never-ending buzzword for companies

There is little doubt that the objective of corporate enterprises is to walk down the ‘growth path’ or scale up or improve profitability. But one is tempted to ask: is staying profitable the be-all and end-all for companies? The answer is a big ‘No’ as enterprises are straining every nerve to think beyond ‘profitability’. Corporate enterprises are showing a ‘real intent’ to make their presence felt, in terms of engaging in societal engagement programs, which bodes well for the future.

There is a pressing need for the corporate world to embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Over the past two decades or so, enterprises have taken to CSR activities in a big way. According to an iamwire report, global software giant Microsoft has been pumping billions of dollars in CSR activities. The IT bellwether has worked closely with many non-profit organizations – what’s more, it even asks its employees to spend a certain number hours each month on volunteering activities for issues that are close to their heart. Search giant Google’s ‘green program’ is another robust CSR initiative aimed at making businesses more reliant on renewable sources of energy.

Of course, there is also a line of thought that companies tend to carry out CSR programs sans any ‘real focus’. This could be true in some cases, but it will be unjust to suggest that a large chunk of companies are not taking CSR with any kind of seriousness.

CSR initiatives are of crucial interest for companies because there is a strong feeling that they must shoulder ‘some sense of responsibility’ in addressing social issues largely dealt with by government agencies, NGOs, etc across the globe. There are broadly two types of corporate social responsibility – one is related to providing funding and resources for social causes (such as donating money to charities etc), while the other is drawing up a comprehensive plan to produce products/services that are in the best interests of society, corporate environment-friendly initiatives, etc.

CSR initiatives are emerging as a ‘must-have’ for enterprises as prospective clients look beyond price, quality and reputation of a service/product. Clients are showing ‘increasing interest’ in knowing how ‘much community engagement presence’ firms are having before they actually avail their product/service.

Realization has probably dawned on companies that CSR can be a ‘strong selling point’ before prospective clients – a strong CSR portfolio can surely help enterprises showcase before clients how much they yearn to ‘do something for the society’. The dynamics of business are such that clients look at companies having a robust CSR background with an ‘extra interest’. A company may a strong reputation, reputed workforce, solid infrastructure, vibrant work environment, etc – but if it has a solid CSR portfolio it lends that ‘X factor’ – thus, a highly effective community engagement program paves the way for companies to come up with new client wins.
Community engagement is something clients want to know

CSR initiatives are seen as an integral part of a company’s business strategy as well as in shoring up its ‘already-built reputation’. A study conducted by New York-based private global consulting firm Reputation Institute revealed that reputation is increasingly playing a major role in how companies are bagging client wins. The study says that willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company is driven 60% by the company’s reputation and only 40% by the reputation of its products or services. The bottom-line is that CSR activities enhance the feel-good factor about the company.

CSR activities will have its share of challenges. And the biggest of them is ‘execution’ – any CSR initiative without a proper strategy is bound to come a cropper. The effective implementation of a CSR drive is significant as its success lies in the active involvement of all its stakeholders. This is where employee engagement comes into play. The active involvement of the employees is a big factor in shaping up the success of a company’s CSR activity. Such initiatives cannot be termed a ‘success story’ unless it enjoys unstinted support of all employees or at least a bulk of it. It is also not a bad idea at all if existing clients/customers can be a part of such CSR initiatives as this would provide them a helicopter view of how the CSR initiative is conducted.

CSR initiatives must exude a feeling that companies are delivering CSR programs that has a ‘strong community feeling’ ingrained in them and not suggest anything close to being just ‘going through the motions’. Companies must refrain from any half measures and look to generate the right kind of ‘buzz’. The very purpose of conducting CSR initiatives could get defeated if there is no adequate publicity. Enterprises would be well served if they value the essence of creating a buzz about such initiatives – optimizing various social media platforms as well as ensuring such initiatives are published in newspapers, news portals, magazines, etc so that a larger audience is in the know. Media publicity of CSR activities is one aspect, which at times, is ignored by firms and Clearly, CSR initiatives would only get bigger in intensity going forward. Such initiatives are no longer confined to large or mid-sized companies. Even startups have quickly realized the importance of CSR drives and have readily chosen to wear the ‘CSR’ hat. The coming years are poised to see CSR emerge as an indispensable feature of companies.

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