The past few months, our country and our economy have been tested in profound ways. Business leaders have had to move quickly to address the shifting needs of their workforce, their communities, and their clients—ushering in a new era for corporate social responsibility.
But in a time of so much uncertainty and change, how can businesses develop and maintain a meaningful corporate social responsibility program? Whether you define it as culture, purpose, or something else, it is critical to first identify your organization’s values, goals, and beliefs, all of which serve to motivate and inspire your people. You can then channel that energy into programs and initiatives that leverage both the passion of your people and the core competency of your business to drive positive change.
Let’s examine some ways to build a meaningful corporate social responsibility program by making community impact and values integral parts of a company’s culture and brand.
Building a strong, ethical culture: The fact is, an increasingly complex business and economic environment does not build an ethical culture within an organization – it reveals it. More than ever, it is critical to have a culture in place in which everyone embraces a sense of personal responsibility for doing the right thing in the right way. An ethical culture is vital to the long-term success of a business—it helps to attract and retain the best people, it sets the tone within an organization, and it lays the groundwork for all client relationships.
Uniting around a shared set of values: To that end, a shared set of values is critical to instituting a strong ethical culture. Values are the common thread that hold a company’s people together, guiding not only what they do, but who they are. And by making a commitment to improving communities both a priority and a core value, it’s possible to create a culture that empowers people to channel their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and interests into serving causes that fuel a shared passion for the greater good. In this way, corporate social responsibility also becomes a cornerstone of a company’s brand.
Identifying a common cause: In addition to building an ethical culture that rests on a strong foundation of shared values, instituting a flagship volunteer program further aligns a company’s brand with its corporate responsibility commitments. This also allows employees of all levels—as well as families, friends, nonprofit partners, and other organizations—to have the opportunity to join together around a common goal, cultivating personal and professional relationships outside of the office. Ideally, this program will leverage the core competency of your business—enabling you to drive positive impact in an authentic way.
Responding to timely events: While a flagship volunteer program can bring people together and create impact, now more than ever it is important to ensure that an organization also remains flexible and able to address needs as they arise. This is where a strong, ethical culture and value system can be so important. By aligning action with the company’s core purpose and value system, business leaders can successfully rise to the occasion in a way that resonates.
As business leaders, it can be difficult to know how to get involved and make an impact in these unprecedented times. But by defining and being guided by your organization’s culture and value system—and identifying how you can best leverage the passions and skills of your people—you can approach corporate responsibility in a way that will have a lasting impact in the communities where we live and work.