Corporate Social Responsibility: the hidden agendas and how to avoid the pitfalls to win big in any business

Key indicator for growth in an uncertain world

The term corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to practices and policies of corporations that positively impact the world. The key idea is to pursue pro-social objectives, in addition to maximizing profits.

CSR is on the rise as many more companies get on board. But it’s not all good news.

The basic concept is simple.

Businesses have a responsibility, as custodians, to the planet and people. The ‘profit only’ agenda has long departed from its fashionable status of the ‘greed is good’ 80s and 90s. Now companies who focus on profit only, do so at their peril.

But the basic premise of CSR is getting lost in translation at best, and exploited at worst.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference in 2019 in Paris, CEO of Unilever Alan Jope said: “..[our brands]..taking action to support positive change for people and the planet grew 69% faster than the rest of our business. They also delivered 75% of our overall growth.”

He went on to share that 66% of growth came from brands taking a stand on social issues.

These results demonstrate that CSR can be a game changer when it comes to sustainable growth for business. In today’s rapidly changing uncertain world, the significance of CSR cannot be overlooked. Done wrong however, it can spell disaster for future profits and procurement.

 Demystifying CSR: Exploring The 4 types

CSR has four key categories:

  • Ethical Responsibility: ensuring all stakeholders are treated fairly and equally
  • Environmental Responsibility: actively engaging in environmentally friendly practices that reduce pollution, use reliable energy or offset carbon footprints
  • Philanthropic Responsibility: promoting the welfare of people and planet by donating profits to charitable causes or establishing charitable entities
  • Economic Responsibility: basing financial decisions not just on profit but what benefits the planet and people.

“Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.” Bill Ford.

Tales From A Self-Confessed Convert

A self-confessed reformist, I turned my back on a lucrative corporate legal career over a decade ago to follow my passion and purpose.

As a trusted advisor to leaders and organisations across the globe, my business helps implement proven CSR policies that drive the ‘triple bottom line’: profit; people; and planet.

By incorporating CSR policies at a grass-roots level, I have helped businesses like Thread to Fabric, a kid’s clothing business for social change, attract an un-solicited two-page spread in Vogue Magazine; and Tempus Novo, an enterprise placing ex-offenders into employment, win awards, major celebrity endorsements and funding.

My business supports various charities through fundraising, raising awareness, partnering with Indigenous Australians, and offers scholarships for marginalised women.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of CSR

Done well, CSR radically up levels:

  • employer of choice status
  • employee engagement
  • customer loyalty
  • networking and affiliation prospects

Done poorly, CSR is just another box to tick, which increasingly savvy consumers see right through.

At worst, CSR is reduced to a PR stunt to advance personal or political agendas.

My top 3 tips for ethically leveraging CSR as a good for all business strategy

  • Small business owners – list everything that really matters to you in the four CSR categories. Choose one and start there
  • Medium sized businesses – gather your leaders and brainstorm what is personally meaningful, then identify common themes. Choose what aligns with your business values
  • Multinationals – elect a CSR champion or leader who is passionate about this area. Let them lead the charge.

By Anjani Amriit.

Anjani Amriit is an Inspirational Speaker, and Leadership & Women’s Empowerment Expert. Founder of ‘A Higher Calling’, Anjani empower leaders, and organisations to become positive role models by giving back to society. Details can be found at www.anjaniamriit.com

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