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Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a CSR Program

CSR Initiatives Successes or Failures

When dealing with something as beneficial as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program, it becomes important to discuss how these programs can go wrong, and how people can go about creating them in the right way.

On the website MarketingProfs, Alyssa Dver posted the article, "Irresponsible Corporate Responsibility: Doing Good Isn't Always Done Well." She notes that often corporations will focus on only one aspect of CSR. It is important to be well-rounded in the social responsibilities that the company has taken on. For example, if a company aligns more with saving the planet and being environmentally friendly, while noble, it is important to make sure that this does not deter from donating to certain charities or respecting human rights issues. Another issue is a misalignment of the cause with the company. For instance, it would be strange if an animal slaughterhouse were to donate charity money to a vegan non-profit. While an exaggerated example, the point is that it is much more effective to align with a non-profit that can utilize the skills of your workforce.  FedEx does this by allowing for disaster relief and organ transportation programs to make use of their transportation services during emergency situations.

Another issue that often transpires within failed CSR initiatives is the lack of internal communication. If none of the employees know about opportunities to volunteer or the companies' different CSR initiatives, then the initiatives will not be sustainable. The article states that the best companies use different techniques from putting notices on paystubs, newsletters, voicemails and even text messages. This way, different demographics, sectors and levels of employees are all aware of volunteer opportunities. Moreover, besides internal communication, ineffective external communication can be problematic as well. Communication with stakeholders and customers should be transparent and have depth. There are multiple avenues to go about accomplishing this, via websites, web videos, billboards and increasingly social media.

With most initiatives, it is fatal to not have a plan with milestones and general goals. Many parts encompass CSR initiatives, like branding, marketing and strategy, so that if there is not a clear path that the initiative is on, important components of the initiative are going to be left out, creating an unsustainable program. Along with this comes giving without any rules. It may seem like a good idea to just donate to multiple charities, or to donate a large amount to a charity that the CEO is personally aligned with, but this can lead to larger issues within the company. If the best customer of a corporation makes a statement about their favorite charity, it will be difficult for the company to say no if there are not any clear guidelines on how and to whom donations will be made out. Creating rules will make it clearer on how best to make these decisions.

Entrepreneur also has ideas on how CSR initiatives should be created. Lain Hensley wrote the article, "Corporate Social Responsibility Done Right: 5 Ways to Help Your Company Shine." One of the ideas that Hensley found invaluable is that more effective CSR initiatives crowdsource ideas. It is important for CSR initiatives to be backed by the CEO and top management because employees are more willing to care if they can plainly see that top management is interested in social responsibility. At the same time though, top management cannot generate all of the ideas, an issue which can be solved by soliciting employee ideas on what the goals of the initiative should be, which will lead to more employee participation as well. Further, combining philanthropy and corporate training, having philanthropy strongly interwoven into the identity of the company, will keep the company from missing out on opportunities to give and grow.

CSR initiatives can help and be effective and worthwhile, and so it is important to be aware of the traps that will cause an initiative to fail.