It’s now widely accepted that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not only good for society, but makes sound commercial sense as well.
So how can a startup be socially responsible when it’s operating on the financial equivalent of an empty tank? Here are five ways in which we’ve seen companies of all shapes and sizes become better corporate citizens.
Be proud of your purpose
The most obvious way in which you can serve your community is to provide a product or service which is of social good. Not only will this make your heart feel warm, it makes business sense too. A couple of recent examples illustrate the point.
When Indra Noovi became CEO of Pepsi, she identified that regardless of how much money the company spent on sponsoring worthwhile projects, staff did not feel proud of a brand that had a reputation for unhealthy products. So, Ms. Noovi made it a top priority to steer the company towards developing healthier products and to become a “good” company. As result, staff and customer satisfaction have risen, as have profits.
On the flipside, look at Ashley Madison, a website designed to help married people have affairs. It’s morally questionable purpose has made it the target of hackers and potential lawsuits, for failing to adequately protect customers’ data.
Create a community
Startups don’t have the luxury of being able to offer incentives or pay over the odds to customers and employees in the form of discounts, pay rises or bonuses.
The good news is people also value participation. If customers and employees feel that they get a fair say and feel that the company is listening, they will be more motivated and loyal.
Establishing ways in which employees can provide feedback, or allowing customers to interact with the company through tools such as social media, can be a cost effective way of bringing society closer and benefits the company at the same time.
Most companies will tell you that their customers are not all alike – with different needs and budgets. Yet many act as though they are, consistently offering the same product or service for the standard price to all customers.
Failing to tailor the product or service to meet specific customers’ needs is not only a business failure it’s also a missed CSR opportunity.
Cinemas combine positive discrimination with CSR very well. Cinemas have long offered discounts to students and senior citizens, but in recent years they have taken this a step further. You’ll often see day time showings marketed exclusively to senior citizens, with tea and cake (and conversation) before the show included in the price. In a stroke, the offer is no longer a discount, but instead providing something extra to a particular customer segment.
Help support other CSR friendly businesses
One of the easiest steps a startup that wants to be socially responsible can take is to review its supplier list. All companies, regardless of size, have suppliers. But how much do you really know about yours?
Are they acting in a professional and moral way? Are they reducing their environmental impact? Are they actively looking to “give back” to the community in some way? In short, are they adopting socially responsible practices? This is not only good CSR; it’s also good business practice.
When the horse meat scandal broke, it wasn’t just the meat producers and food manufacturers that received negative headlines in the media; it was their customers, the supermarkets, too.
Love your environment
Whilst obvious, it’s worth reiterating. Reducing waste helps the environment and your wallet.
Even simple steps can make a significant contribution and save the company cash. For instance, a common lapse is forgetting to turn off PC monitors come home time. Left on overnight, that is the equivalent of printing 800 A4 pages. Multiply that by the varying IT equipment in your office and you’re looking at a lot of unnecessary energy use.
So, be good corporate citizens and make your business financially stronger in the process.