Corporate Social Responsibility: Where People, Purpose, Planet and Profit Intersect
by Lisa Holtorf
Happy National Volunteer Month!
If I’ve left you wondering why this greeting is relevant for a marketing article, hang with me for a moment.
Have you ever heard the phrase “doing well by doing good?” In business we call this principle corporate social responsibility (CSR), and we’ve had a front-row seat to the powerful positive effects it can have on any organization. The benefits are many, and can’t be replicated by other means.
National Volunteer Month feels like the right time to discuss how CSR can amplify your company values, brand reputation, and more – in ways you never may have imagined.
Corporate Social Responsibility — More than Money
The “triple bottom line” is the idea a business’s success can be measured by more than financial performance. It expands the conventional definition of success to include three Ps: profits, people, and planet. (“Planet” is broader than environment only. Think positive social impact that extends outside your four walls.)
Being profitable is an important fundamental goal for every business, but more organizations today understand the value of also being purpose-driven. Many businesses have learned purpose doesn’t come at the expense of profits – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Doing good unlocks a wealth of benefits that can even include a positive impact on bottom-line financials. As just a few examples, good corporate citizens enjoy:
- a stronger brand reputation,
- increased community visibility,
- stronger customer relationships, and
- greater employee satisfaction.
Donating to charitable causes is a great place to begin on the CSR path, but ultimately, you’ll want to define what CSR looks like beyond dollars and cents. This means asking questions to uncover where your organization wants to make an impact, and determining how you’ll make a difference through intentional actions.
Starting a Corporate Social Responsibility Program
If you are thinking about turning your company’s desire to do good into something more formal, spend time contemplating how you want your CSR effort to take shape. The following questions and considerations can help.
What do we value? Which causes align with our business’s core values or value proposition?
How will we create impact? Will we align with organizations that share a common purpose or develop or own effort? Will we contribute time, talent, resources?
How can we deepen our connection? How will we foster connection by engaging our employees in our important causes? How will we ensure “walking the talk” becomes part of our company culture?
Where can we start simply? Even if you’re highly motivated, implementing a CSR program can feel overwhelming – and that doesn’t bode well for long-term success. It’s easy to underestimate the impact of starting small, but meaningful and sustainable efforts blossom over time.
How will we communicate? How will you articulate your CSR vision and purpose to internal and external stakeholders? How will you share information about the impact you’re making? What is your CSR story?
Causes We Care about at SA
I feel fortunate to work at a company that has embraced the principles of CSR since its founding more than 40 years ago. Giving of our time, talent, and resources is deeply embedded into our corporate culture, reflected by the causes we support as a company and as individuals. Every SA employee annually receives two days of paid volunteer time off, or VTO, which can be redeemed by the hour to volunteer with organizations of personal significance.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, we’d like to take the opportunity of National Volunteer Month to highlight a few causes special to us.
Count the Kicks
Count the Kicks has a simple message and a powerful purpose: it aims to decrease stillbirths by encouraging expectant mothers to monitor fetal movement during the third trimester of pregnancy. A former SA employee was one of the five women founders who started the organization more than 15 years ago. We’ve supported Count the Kicks from the beginning with marketing assistance for its public awareness campaigns which now span more than 25 of our 50 states.
The United Way’s far-reaching efforts to improve lives has been a core reason for our more than 30 years of support. We look for creative ways to encourage employee participation in annual giving campaigns – whether that’s watching company leaders don sumo wrestling suits, get a pie in the face, or star in a rock video. Because of our efforts to make giving fun (and our commitment to starting early as a Pacesetter organization), we’ve achieved more than ten years with 100% employee participation. Making a difference creates opportunities for team building and having fun, too.
Our involvement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education began in 2013 when the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council uncovered a lack of STEM awareness in the state. Since then, we’ve grown STEM awareness among Iowans to more than 70% through multi-faceted public awareness campaigns that have earned recognition from the White House and National Institute of Health.
Lennox ‘Feel the Love’ Program
Longtime SA client Lennox greatly improves the lives of thousands across the U.S. and Canada through its Feel the Love program, where deserving individuals and families are nominated to receive a new heating or cooling system. We’re proud to support this important effort each year by securing donated media to raise awareness for the program.
Identifying meaningful ways for your company to give back is a win-win-win. Whatever form your CSR program takes, doing well by doing good makes perfect business sense.
Lisa Holtorf is the vice president of operations and integration at SA. Learn more about SA’s full spectrum of marketing services and advocacy work at www.strategicamerica.com.