It may not seem like it at first glance, but the benefits that companies can derive from a CSR approach are major. Today, society as a whole expects companies to be at least socially committed, if not socially responsible. Until now, economic performance has been the only priority. While companies must continue to perform their primary function of generating profits, they must now also take account of societal pressure to play a more active role in solving society's problems. Let's find out how to create and develop Corporate Social Responsibility.
What is CSR?
The concept originated in the United States, where it has been around since the 1950s. In Europe, it was Jacques Delors who first spoke of it in 1995, when he called on major companies to combat social exclusion. Since then, the European Union has paid increasing attention to the issue.
It was originally a tool for developing both economic growth and job quality. It now extends to environmental issues and company operating methods. Companies are accountable both internally, to shareholders and trade unions for example, and externally, to nature protection associations, NGOs, consumers, local authorities, etc.
Following the scandals denounced in the press concerning certain companies, transparency is becoming a necessity:
- product traceability,
- impact on the environment,
- choice of suppliers,
- origin of the raw material,
- production techniques...
And in some sectors, following the Covid crisis, a shortage of manpower is forcing employers to use all their charm to attract candidates: flexibility, optimal working conditions, telecommuting, pleasant surroundings, good reputation...
Faced with these demands, companies are increasingly integrating CSR into their management practices. They are implementing responsible practices and making them known. To reinforce their credibility, they do not hesitate, for example, to take part in actions in association with NGOs or to draw up ethical charters.
How do you develop a CSR policy?
Over and above legal obligations, it is the companies themselves who decide to make commitments to change their habits. Each company needs to find the best solutions to suit its structure, sector and geographical location.
CSR policy is an integral part of a company's overall strategy. As part of a sustainable development approach, long-term actions are possible:
- switch to renewable energy,
- opt for electric cars,
- choose reconditioned computer equipment,
- encourage teleworking,
- cover public transport costs for employees,
- install a waste sorting system, recycle,
- reduce paper, water and electricity consumption,
- insulate premises...
The aim of CSR is also to meet the expectations of the company's stakeholders, i.e. its staff, customers, suppliers and even shareholders and future investors. By respecting social and environmental standards, the company will inevitably improve its brand image. It will appear more credible and more responsible in the eyes of its financial and commercial partners.
CSR in purchasing strategy should not be ignored either:
- respect human rights in terms of child labor, for example,
- promote short circuits and local development
- fight against poor quality products,
- interact with the social economy,
- repair equipment rather than replace it...
Finally, as well-being in the workplace increasingly seems to take precedence over salary, it's important for employers not just to comply with employment law, but also to ensure that their employees are satisfied with their jobs and working conditions, thus fostering a better atmosphere and greater productivity.
Steps to follow
Before embarking on a CSR strategy, it's important to consider the needs and desires of your stakeholders. A company's stakeholders are all the people or organizations concerned by an action and whose interests are affected by its implementation. In the context of CSR, taking stakeholders into account is fundamental. A dialogue must therefore be initiated.
The next step is to consider the various points that need to be improved or introduced. Evaluating expenditure is of course important, as is measuring social and environmental impact.
To this end, appointing a CSR manager is not a bad idea. This will be an identifiable figure within the company who will listen to comments, launch the process, propose actions and estimate the budget. There's nothing to stop all managers being trained in CSR principles, as they will then be responsible for raising awareness among the rest of the staff.
Once the ideal strategy has been established, it obviously needs to be applied through concrete, sustainable actions. It's best to start with the actions that have the highest return on investment quickly. Seeing immediate positive results in terms of employee comfort and the environment, as well as the company's profitability, encourages everyone involved to continue along this path.