4 recommendations for your CSR strategy
CSR is a difficult subject to grasp. This is particularly true for SMEs as they do not always have the resources to approach CSR-related issues, which is essential for their environmental and societal positioning. In this context, what are the right reflexes to have and how to approach the subject? What would be the 4 recommendations for your CSR strategy?
Here are some tips to consider:
1. Choose your battles
All companies pride themselves – and rightly so – on their exemplary recycling and waste recovery practices. These measures are certainly important and set the tone for CSR within the company, but they are above all peripheral measures that are not sufficient. Acting on your core business is what will have a significant impact in tackling these fundamental issues. The necessary transformation of companies to reduce their impact will affect production methods, financial performance, among other processes. In all sectors, we will have to reinvent ourselves, sometimes modifying our business model to make it sustainable. For example, it will be necessary to favor short circuits, to implement traceability or seasonality in the food industry, but in the tech industry, we will have to see how the components are sourced, how the production chain is assembled, etc.
How to achieve this? You can perform a materiality analysis which will allow you to identify the important issues for your customers and employees and take into account those that have the most environmental and social impact. The materiality analysis consists in crossing an internal vision of the importance of CSR issues on the company’s performance with the expectations of stakeholders. It is a tool that also allows the company to assess its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There is also the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that allows you to determine for each product or service of your company the elements that have the most environmental impacts. In this context, companies can be led to integrating eco-design.
2. Involve and listen to your stakeholders
The CSR strategy of your company cannot be thought of in a small committee with a Top-Down logic. It is essential to rely on dialogue to put things in place. One of the key factors of success is to take into account the expectations of your stakeholders and in particular your employees. It is imperative to ensure the support of employees within the company, to involve them in the choice of CSR themes, and (why not?) to develop your CSR strategy with them?
The same process is expected to happen with external stakeholders, in particular customers, as they are also impacted. Customers are becoming increasingly aware and demanding, and are careful to choose companies whose commitments they know and who are more transparent and responsible in their production.
Therefore, it is recommended to organize co-development sessions with employees and representatives of your customers so that they can lead the development of your CSR roadmap while sharing their doubts and ideas. It is important to consider that your strategy is evolving over time.
3. Lead by example
Your CSR strategy must be embodied. This is the responsibility of the CEO but also of the representatives of all levels of the company. This is true for the Board of Directors and all the bodies that represent shareholders and employees. Everyone must be a kind of spokesperson and must be able to explain what the strategy is about.
Everything that is decided at the level of the CSR department must permeate the entire company, all the departments because each one will be called upon to contribute to the work of awareness-rising. This is particularly true in the case of companies with subsidiaries or with an international presence, as the message must be carried by the “global” but also the “local” parts.
In the end, it is at your production units and at your stores that your employees or customers will be able to judge the consistency of your CSR strategy.
4. Communicate and disseminate
When the work has been completed and all the stakeholders are committed to the process (because they have participated), the hardest part remains to be done, as you must not be afraid to transform the company’s identity. The CSR strategy must influence the company in all its dimensions and in all its opportunities to express itself, in its communication.
Without necessarily saying that your products are going to change the world because no one would believe you, you have to build a new narrative, a story-telling that shows how, in small steps, your products will contribute to a better world. Sustainable products, “made in France”, slow fashion, traceability are all elements of positioning but also of differentiation. Enhance your positive impact with tangible indicators.
These are sometimes the details that will make people prefer your brand or your products. We know the strong sensitivity of the young generations to these subjects, these are all arguments that will convince them to choose you.
The more you take a leadership position on CSR issues, the more credible you will be. By setting high standards, you will be ahead of your competitors who will have to position themselves in relation to you and there is always a premium for the leader.
Ultimately, to be successful, the implementation of a strategy must be a participatory process that will turn contributors into ambassadors. Creating a conversation on these topics within the company is an opportunity to get your stakeholders on board and engaged. Ask your employees for their opinions on the subjects that matter to them or the SDGs that resonate with them the most. You will always get answers that will enrich your thinking.