Corporate social responsibility: Do your part and make a difference
In a nutshell, the European Commission has defined corporate responsibility (CSR) as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. Although very simplified, this definition gets to the heart of what corporate social responsibility is – how companies can implement and sustain initiatives and strategies that ensure they positively affect society and their communities.
Corporate social responsibility has many benefits for a company. Today, socially-aware consumers and employees place a high importance on working for and spending their money with businesses that prioritise CSR.
A 2015 study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute in London found that companies that had a true commitment to corporate social responsibility by far outperformed those that did not, with an average return on assets 19 times higher.
Research by Cone Communications also reflects how much importance consumers place on corporate social responsibility. According to the research, 63% of Americans hope businesses will drive social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation. Nearly 90% of the consumers surveyed said they would buy a product because a company supported an issue they care about. More importantly, roughly 75% will refuse to buy from a company if they learn it supports an issue contrary to their own beliefs.
Thus, a company’s corporate social responsibility strategies and initiatives deeply impact its image with consumers.
When it comes to employees, studies have found that an employer’s CSR strategies affect morale and engagement. This is especially true for millennials, who are estimated to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.
It becomes very clear that corporate social responsibility makes perfect business sense – but where should you start?
Corporate social responsibility falls into four categories: environmental efforts and sustainability, philanthropy, ethical labour practices and volunteering. All four areas are very important, and companies should incorporate all four into their CSR strategy, however, here we will focus on philanthropy in particular.
Philanthropy involves becoming involved with a charity, cause or NGO, usually by providing financial aid, products or services. It is important to choose a cause that reflects the company’s ideals, so a successful partnership can be formed. Choosing a local cause to invest in will also benefit the company’s community.
While there are many worthy causes deserving of aid, consider the impact the charity or cause has on the community, its potential for growth, and its potential impact on South Africa as a country.
An example of an NGO changing lives and positively impacting South Africa is the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust. Since its inception in 1990, it has focused on bringing accredited schooling to cognitively-disabled and disadvantaged youth. It has since then established and expanded organisational structures to address a wider range of needs found in the current South African environment – this includes the creation of Sparrow FET College in 2010.
The Sparrow FET College adopts a theory, practice and real-world application approach to skills development. In the classroom, learners cover theoretical curriculum content in a simulated workplace environment through which theoretical and practical skills are taught and applied. Learners then carry these skills to their industry placement.
Sparrow FET College and the industry work together to provide learners with internships during which they are fully supported, comprehensively trained, and prepared for future employment.
Tackling education and unemployment in South Africa is indeed a worthy cause, and there are also additional benefits for corporations that support Sparrow. For more information, visit the Sparrow website.