Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability: For a Better Future.

 

By Kevin DUCHEYNE

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability can help your business through the economic fallout of COVID-19 that awaits us. But how do you create sustainable value for your company, society, and the environment, while building brand trust? Is it even possible to align all these interests?

There doesn’t seem to be a unified answer to these million-dollar questions. However, like some experts out there, we at LSBC believe that implementing responsible behaviors is the only way forward. In other words, when you sustainably create value for your business, you will create a competitive advantage and prosper in the long run. Doing the right thing doesn’t have to hamper your profit-making activities. 

Despite what some people may believe, corporate social responsibility and sustainability aren’t a form of charity or philanthropy. They mainly focus on strengthening your business’s value by creating a positive social, communal, and environmental impact. In this article, we will shine our light on what you can do to adjust your business practices and beliefs, and future-proof your business with a clear conscience.

Corporate social responsibility and sustainability: where to begin? 

1. Invest in employee experience (EX).

When you talk about return on investment (ROI), employee experience might not be on the top of your mind. There are some shared concerns when it comes to investing in their employees, such as: What if you invest in them and they leave? As an entrepreneur, you will never know whether the employee in whom you invest will stay on board. However, consider this: What if your employee remains on board, but you don’t invest in them at all? 

The exact ROI might remain a mystery, but an invested employee will be an excellent ambassador of and driving force in your company. While, on the other side of the spectrum, an unhappy employee might harm your business in more ways than one. Either way, here are some questions that are worth answering if you want to improve your company’s employee experience:

  • What employee experience does your company offer? 
  • Are your employees empowered to do their job well? 
  • Do your employees have everything they need to do their job well? 
  • Are there roadblocks that get in their way?
  • Is there a culture that enables collaboration?
  • Do you approve of open communication?
  • Do you connect with employees regularly?

Author and professor Adam Grant mentions that many companies have become a more transactional place, while they used to be a source of meaningful relationships. 

“When friends work together, they’re more trusting and committed to one another’s success. That means they share more information and spend more time helping — and as long as they don’t hold back on constructive criticism out of politeness, they make better choices and get more done.”

Adam Grant

For more practical examples, you can look at technology companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook. They understand this and continuously try to improve their overall employee experience. When you look at some of these tech-giants and simultaneously look to the future, you will see that investing in your employee’s overall happiness is a good idea. Perhaps you don’t have their budget. Nevertheless, it is good to keep in mind that your investment will benefit your company, employees, and society in the long run. 

2. Stop externalizing costs.

The short term strategies that have dominated our industrial economies the past five decades have mortgaged and endangered the future of countless generations—climate change is just one of the disasters our descendants will have to endure. Doing business was (and sometimes still is) all about maximizing short-term profits by off-loading the indirect costs and forcing the detrimental effects upon a third party.

This strategy allows people to make money by shifting potential risks to the future. Hence, if you want to go green, you should not implement a vision, mission, and strategies based on externalizing costs. Move forward. Think long term and work towards a more sustainable and socially equitable future. Fight the business rhetoric in which short term benefits outweigh long term risks and focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Thus, creating sustainable value for your business, society, and the environment.

3. Focus on environmental sustainability.

Sustainability has been defined by The United Nations Brundtland Commission (1987) as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Nowadays, many entrepreneurs realize that our current economic model compromises future generations’ ability to meet their needs. Ecosystems are collapsing, we are amidst the sixth mass extinction, and climate change is changing life as we know it. If we want to continue doing business, the way we conduct that business needs to change. 

There’s a flurry of guidelines and codes when it comes to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Earlier this year, LSBC posted a short list with some eco-friendly tips on how a business can take affirmative action. Instinctively, most of us know that we need to do more. Hence, it is crucial that your company leads by example and walks the talk for numerous reasons. Working towards a better future is the only thing to do. Here are some focal points that can help make your business more sustainable:

  • Conduct a sustainability audit.
  • Define the company’s long-term purpose.
  • Spell out the economic case for sustainability.
  • Set clear sustainability goals.
  • Cocreate sustainable practices with your employees. 
  • Make sustainability visible inside and outside your company.
  • Save energy: upgrade your lighting, enable sleep mode, and power saver features when possible.
  • Reduce waste at your company: set up a recycling program.
  • Conserve water: collect rainwater for sanitary use. 
  • Green your supply chain: work with local vendors, screen your suppliers, and come up with an environmentally friendly purchasing policy for your organization.
  • Improve employee commutes & travel (a significant source of carbon emissions for many companies): encourage people to use environmentally friendly means of transportation or telework when possible.

This list is endless. But as a start-up, a small- or medium-sized company, it is possible to have a positive impact and create value for your business, society, and the environment. Just keep in mind that being creative, using your common sense, and thinking about what impact your business will have on future generations will guide you towards that better future. ‘Business as usual’ can only continue if we ignore the dangers of our current economic model, and where it leads us.

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