EVERFI Content Team

3 CSR Best Practices

There is a spotlight on corporations right now to make a positive impact.  The pressure is coming from regulatory agencies and consumers, and the business needs to keep up with competitors. But, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives take time to build, and the effects take even longer to appear.  For organizations that haven’t yet created a CSR strategy, now is the time. 

What is the purpose of corporate social responsibility? Organizations that develop social impact programs are creating a win-win situation for the company and its reputation by positively impacting communities through social initiatives.  

Need to know where to begin?  Companies should start with the following corporate social responsibility best practices for incorporating an effective social impact program into their business.

1. Choose Corporate Values

As discussed in The Current State of CSR, with limited regulatory requirements as to how to execute CSR initiatives, organizations have considerable autonomy in the process.  They can design something tailored to the unique needs of the communities they serve, as well as to their specific business goals.  

Executives should begin by establishing what the core values of the company are and learning which issues are top priorities to the individuals and communities they hope to impact.  Values might include a combination of internal and external goals, such as environmentally sustainable business practices, employee and client education around prescription drug safety, and educational programs in the community.  The causes a company aligns with do not need to be directly related to the company’s products or services. 

For example, the hospital system UnityPoint Health was concerned about the country’s prescription drug and opioid epidemic, the effects of which its staff encountered in their facilities every day.  UnityPoint values the health and well-being of its community members and, though not an education business, felt that a CSR program rooted in drug safety education would make a meaningful social impact.  

2. Align Corporate Social Responsibility Activities Across Multiple Departments

Organizations that follow corporate social responsibility best practices optimize their internal resources and rally multiple departments to get involved.  Dedicated CSR and Compliance teams are crucial in developing and overseeing the program and should work with the Marketing, Communications, PR, and Government Relations teams to set benchmarks and metrics of success and communicate the results internally and externally.  

While social impact initiatives are built around community betterment, they should strengthen the business at the same time. Leveraging brand awareness and reputation-building opportunities is a key part of that.  

Of course, it is necessary that the executive team be invested in the cause and recognize its business benefits so that they support the CSR mission, both culturally and financially.  Providing regular social impact activity updates to leadership will excite and engage them in the process.  Reporting achievements, with anecdotes as well as concrete impact and ROI data, will cultivate long-term support of the program.

3. Form Strategic Partnerships

Companies use corporate social responsibility best practices to invest philanthropically in areas in which they do not have total expertise, and cause partnerships often are a fundamental part of the process.  It is a huge advantage to partner with other organizations, whether they be non-profit or for-profit, that bring valuable experience and resources to the project.  It’s important to establish a clear time frame and identify the social impact on investments and business benefits for each party.  Complementary and mutually beneficial partnerships open up opportunities, generate creative solutions, and make the greatest impact. 

For example, UnityPoint Health was able to swiftly roll out a prescription drug and opioid education program into 40 high schools across 25 midwest counties because of its strategic partnership with EVERFI, a company with expertise in digital prevention education and school implementation.

These Corporate Social Responsibility Best Practices will help elevate your business’ image and yield higher returns for your business. Next in this Investing in Impact Series, learn about Determining ROI – Measuring the Effectiveness of CSR Strategies.  Or check out The Current State of CSR.