Business-like social initiatives that go beyond the traditional way of doing CSR says, William D King.
The essence is always about how companies can empower communities, volunteers, and societies to help them reach their CSR objectives. This way, they can get a better return of investment from their activities while creating a competitive advantage for themselves.
And while some do it better than others, there are a few that have gone beyond the traditional methods and have thus been successful in achieving both business and CSR aims.
These initiatives often require more flexibility from companies but have proven returns when done right.
1. Business Model Innovation
To raise money for its CSR projects, Danone entered into a joint venture with natural food company Wild Oats Markets to create an organic baby food line which was sold exclusively through Wild Oats’ 70 stores across the country.
Danone made its expertise in marketing to parents with young children available while enjoying the benefits of having access to new customers. Wild Oats, on their side, got the marketing power of one of the world’s largest producers of baby food products and were able to offer new healthy choices for concerned moms-to-be.
2. Employee Volunteering Programs
IKEA has created a roadmap that encourages employee volunteering at least 10 hours per year in local communities by 2017 via training programs and financial support from the company. This allows employees flexibility when it comes to where they can volunteer without having to go out of their way.
In return, IKEA expects these same employees will be better prepared for positions in operations or sales and will have a better understanding of the communities in which they live and work.
3. Inter-Industry Initiatives
The Inter-industry initiative is a platform for companies from different industries to come together with a shared focus on specific issues such as access to healthcare, education or women empowerment says, William D King. Rather than doing CSR independently, this approach allows companies to pool their resources and expertise more efficiently while also gaining exposure among each other’s clientele.
4. Community Based Corporate Sponsorship Programs
McDonalds’ partnership with Save the Children Fund (SCF) in India aims at creating “local solutions for local challenges” like child labor and malnutrition by empowering local groups and NGOs. This approach helps SCF gain greater exposure while benefiting from McDonald’s marketing power to reach millions of potential customers.
Crowdfunding is a platform that allows companies or individuals to get funding for a project by generating donations from the general public. Companies can use this approach for CSR projects and it can also be used by social enterprises as a way of raising money while generating new income streams. Since the donors are often not expecting returns, these initiatives have much lower financial risks.
Gamification is an effective way to engage with today’s younger generations who generally respond well to “play-learning” activities. For example, EDF created its Green Challenge game which allowed students between 14 and 18 years old to tackle environmental problems in their local communities while also teaching them about the challenges of energy management says William D King. Teaching people about CSR in a fun and engaging way is a key to making these initiatives work.
Companies can make use of crowd-sourced competitions as a way of generating ideas among their own employees or from external parties with no strings attached. For example, P&G ran a competition. On how they could improve feminine hygiene products. Which resulted in great new product ideas delivered by young entrepreneurs across Europe and the Asia Pacific. In return, P&G’s female employees gained exposure. To cutting edge innovation processes while being more involved in the company’s business success.
8. Social Business Ventures
Building social businesses gives companies another way to engage with communities. And often help solve a social problem while generating a profit. For example, Dannon has created the Oikos brand of Greek yogurts. As a way of engaging with health-conscious consumers and now offers an ongoing dividend for its social business investment.
Forming a strong CSR program is a great way for companies to gain a competitive advantage. And engage with their communities says, William D King. This can be achieved by working with local governments, NGOs, and social enterprises. As well as creating new initiatives that complement existing business practices.
In the past decade or so there has been an increasing focus on corporate responsibility from mainstream companies. This approach – which can be defined as a company’s obligations to society – is not only good for the public image. But also helps companies build long-term relationships with stakeholders and create more sustainable business practices.