Confused about what kind of a social responsibility strategy your company should build? Or, are you already supporting your local communities, but unsure of the value it brings to society and to your company? Are you delivering more ‘random acts of kindness’ rather than building mutually beneficial collaboration models with charities and social enterprises?

2020* will be remembered as the decade when contributing to society became standard. Company giving, giving back, corporate social responsibility (CSR), company citizenship and shared value are just some examples of terminology and “philosophies” used when planning and implementing community engagement strategies. We already see companies losing contracts or not winning bids because they do not have approaches in place that evidence their contribution to society – other than making money. But increasingly, we see prospective talent choosing companies [to work for] whose commercial strategies are tightly interlinked with sustainable approaches. There is no going back.

Pursue social as well as economic value by following a clear social purpose. Integrate social and ecological considerations into strategy to maintain trust with all stakeholders and to thrive in the long run
Image via Boston Consulting Group*

Whether your company is looking to win government tenders (Social Value Act 2013), become a meaningful workplace or a valued brand and partner by your customers, ad-hoc donations and quick-win greenwashing campaigns are not the solution. The requirement for credible, quantified and validated sustainability strategies is here to stay, regardless of company size or industry.

Creating a meaningful and inspiring SROI (sustainable return of investment); delivering CSR; community engagement; or a social value approach does not have to be complicated. Don’t let fancy words nor theories fool you… the solution simply requires the right kind of insight to begin implementing. The evidence shows that the success of your company will eventually depend upon it.

whatCharity.com has consulted for numerous companies on their sustainability approach and how to better engage with their local community, charities, social enterprises and employees. These four steps have proven to work as planning ladders:

1. Commitment

The overall strategy of the company and the values it works upon will naturally lead to an approach that feels comfortable:

  • On a general level, every company should have an outline of a sustainability approach that will deliver social, economic and environmental value to society.
  • It is essential to commit to a sustainable company culture at every level – from senior management to employee committees. It should be weaved into the nature of your organisation. It is not something you ‘quit being’, when business booms or the company faces challenges.
  • There are various frameworks to choose from, e.g., UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN Envision 2030), or the Social Value approach linked to the Social Value Act: to better define which areas of society the company wishes to have the greatest impact.
  • It is ok to strive to generate more business through sustainable approaches. Definition of key metrics is essential to see whether your chosen strategy is successful and resonates with your stakeholders.

2. Internal impact

  • It is important to create internal practices. Keep it simple and tangible – not just ‘talk’. There are many free resources to help you.
  • Using the right tools, partners, processes and internal engagement systems can help create to effective value.
  • You will need a good internal communication plan to ensure employee commitment and engagement.

3. External impact

  • It is important to define how your sustainability approach is delivered in chosen communities and with key stakeholders; what are the resources available, and what does the company aim to achieve with them?
  • This means finding and selecting charity partners and social enterprises to collaborate with which will work to deliver an impact within an industry, geographical area or in relation to a particular cause.
  • Finding partners who resonate with your approach and agree mutually beneficial models of contribution and communication is key. For example, sufficient impact reporting is key to understand to what extent investments have returned a social and economic value.
  • It is essential to have an external communication plan to attract partners and build your company’s reputation. There is nothing wrong with spreading your message when the value you contribute is real – it is your story to share.

4. A shared value approach

  • Helps in defining how a sustainability approach can help generate more business and create new product lines and/or services, which again has a positive impact.
  • Non-profit organisations are not only doing beneficiary work, but many of them are also selling products and services, which create lots of potential collaboration models for companies.
  • It is important to note that companies are a bank of skills, capabilities and assets which are considered useful resources when engaging with communities via charity and social enterprise partnerships. These models formulate lots of opportunities for product development and increasing skills within the staff of the company.

*https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/business-trends-for-next-10-years/

Click here to learn more about what whatCharity can do for your company. See our starter package for companies here.

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