Now that we’ve thoroughly defined and explored the benefits of CSR, let’s look at the first steps you can take to jumpstart your company’s CSR program.

1. Establish a clear definition of CSR for your organization.

Before you can pursue specific CSR goals, you must first clearly define what CSR means for your organization. Outline your company’s short- and long-term plan for implementing CSR. Determine how supporting social and environmental causes will benefit your company’s bottom line — is your plan to reduce costs? Drive brand awareness? Not only are these questions necessary to develop your strategy, but they’re also critical towards getting key stakeholders on board with the program.

While you might establish a dedicated CSR team, understand that CSR isn’t an isolated project for a small group of employees to worry about. Rather, it’s a core principle that must become embedded in the fabric of your business. Be sure to communicate your CSR blueprint to everyone at your company, and provide frequent updates as you put your strategy in motion.

2. Re-assess your company’s core values.

As we’ve hopefully made clear by now, CSR is a much more strategic process than simply selecting random social and economic causes to support. Yes, your company should continue to donate and support the charities you love — but a truly sustainable CSR program requires a clear understanding of your company’s values and business model.

To start, identify social and economic initiatives that align with your companies core values. For example, let’s say your company ships high quantities of commercial goods all around the world. A natural CSR initiative would be to minimize the environmental impact of your shipments by reducing package size, using eco-friendly packing materials, and working with shippers that use low-emission transportation methods.

3. Consult your customers.

64% of people cite shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand (source). Naturally, it’s in your best interest to develop CSR initiatives that align with your customers’ values.

We recommend you facilitate candid conversations with some of your best customers and get their insight into your CSR program. Use social media and other outward-facing marketing channels to solicit ideas from your audience and keep them informed on how they can be a part of your CSR initiatives.

Remember, your customers can provide a different — but no less valuable — perspective of your brand and its message than your stakeholders can.

4. Gather input from your employees.

If you think your employees are apathetic towards corporate social responsibility, think again. 64% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work (source). While stakeholders and upper-level executives may seem like the shot-callers, it’s important to remember that your staff is what holds your company together. Your employees deserve to have a say in the direction of your CSR program.

Create open lines of communication with your employees and provide an outlet through which they can voice their thoughts and opinions about the causes they care about. What constitutes ‘ethical labor practices’ from their perspective? Which social causes are they passionate about? What do they believe your company can do to help the environment?

A company-wide survey is a good place to start — but your employees’ input shouldn’t stop there. Managers should meet with their respective teams in order to discuss CSR, answer any questions they might have, and open the floor for them to speak up about the direction your company will take.

5. Develop a reporting system to track and measure your CSR program.

One of the biggest critiques of CSR is that it’s a difficult initiative to measure. It’s true that you can’t quantify every environmental and social return, but you can establish clear metrics to tie your CSR program to your company’s performance.

Once you’ve fleshed out your overall strategy, determine which CSR efforts can be directly linked to tangible business results. For example, let’s say one of your goals is to reduce energy consumption by using renewable energy sources. To measure this, you can take a look at how much you’re spending each month as a company on energy costs. Then, with each change you enact to get you towards your goal, you look at how much you’ve reduced costs each month— proving that your environmental initiative had an impact on your company’s bank account and on the environment.

Be sure to explore other key metrics to discover new ways to tie them back to your CSR efforts— sales and marketing metrics like increased brand awareness, website traffic, customer acquisition, and average order size are a good place to start.

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