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10 Baby Steps to Going Green for Any Size Company

CSR & Environmentally Friendly Companies Going Green

Take a look at any of the top trends for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in 2015, and it is guaranteed that becoming more environmentally friendly, or “going green,” is one of them. Now more than ever, companies are implementing "green" measures not only because the believe it is the right thing to do, but also because they are finding it helps them stay competitive. The following are some simple steps you and your company can take today to decrease its impact on the environment while also saving some money in the process.

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Considering the Educational Pathway to a CSR Career

CSR Education

Raymond Fisman, director of the social enterprise program at Columbia Business School, once said, "There was no social enterprise program when I arrived at Columbia a dozen or so years ago. Now it is a major presence at school. That should give you a sense of how attitudes have changed." And indeed, since the corporate philanthropic consciousness took seed over fifty years ago in America and bloomed ever since, education and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives have become linked. In a 2013 survey conducted by Business4Better that measured how most SMEs spend their CSR-allotted funds, the survey found that over 60% of the SMEs' CSR funds for that year went to educational programs while another 40% of that funding went towards youth programs.

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The Triple Bottom Line & How It Can Help Your Business

The Triple Bottom Line

The term "triple bottom line" may be familiar to some, while unfamiliar to others. In terms of business, it can be a very common concept. Essentially triple bottom line is a term that allows an organization to measure their sustainable growth, since this can be very difficult. First conceptually discussed by Freer Spreckley in the early 1980s, and more full by John Elkington in the mid 1990s, the triple bottom line allows organizations to measure three different aspects of their performance: social, environmental, and financial.

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Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part 4: Standard Team Projects

Skills, Abilities, Knowledge Volunteerism

For the previous parts of this series, please see:
Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part 1
Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part 2: Functional Coaching & Mentoring
Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part 3: Marathon

Standard Team Projects

Think of this type of skills-based volunteerism like consulting, your business delegates forming a team of employees to scope and structure a project around addressing a need or problem for your nonprofit of choice:

  • Individuals within each team are assigned a specific role in consulting and working to address a need.
  • Like consulting, expertise and research is used to develop a strategy for effectively improving some sort of internal or external functioning for the nonprofit, or resolving an issue that that nonprofit faces.
  • Standard Team Projects require careful consideration of a nonprofit's resources, community assets, and of course their mission.
  • With careful implementation and oversight from the team, this type of pro-bono volunteerism has the potential to create a significant long term impact on a nonprofit and its ability to create social or environmental change.

The following is an example of a group using Standard Team Projects:

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Social Enterprises: What They Are & Why They Are Important

Business Giving Nonprofit Social Enterprises

Social enterprises are, to put it quite simply, about people. These are organizations that, rather than placing their main focus on making a profit, seek to partner their revenue with something that benefits people in communities, the environment, etc. They are not required to be a strictly profit or nonprofit organization, as they could be either. In some cases they may make a profit and then re-direct it back to make a change in the surrounding communities.

Why might they be considered to be important? In a world where commercials and advertising dominate most any medium for the sake of profit, these organizations' main focus is to create and enable change for something better. Rather than wanting to make a profit or keep all profit for themselves, these businesses purpose to use the revenue from a product or service in order to make the world a better place.

People of action say that if you want to see a difference in your life you need to make a change, small or large. Social enterprises go that one step farther than normal and put all of their energies into parlaying their business concepts into benefiting the world around them in some way.

One such example is D-Rev out of Palo Alto, California, a nonprofit product development company that designs and delivers products to low-income people around the world living on less than $4 a day. They own the research, design, and development of their products and then partner with industry leaders to manufacture and scale for maximum impact. Their mission is to "to create world class products at an affordable price." One sector of their company provides equipment they have developed to treat newborn jaundice conditions. According to their website, to date, 51,925 babies have been treated with their equipment, 43,554 of which would not otherwise have received effective treatment, resulting in 676 newborn deaths and disabilities averted.

Another example is TROSA, (Triangle Residential Options For Substance Abusers, Inc.) out of Durham, North Carolina. "TROSA is an innovative, multi-year residential program that enables substance abusers to be productive, recovering individuals by providing comprehensive treatment, work-based vocational training, education, and continuing care." There is no cost to the individual receiving treatment at TROSA. Their funding comes from three primary sources: revenue generating businesses which provide vocational training for residents; donations from individuals, companies, and foundations; and modest government support. TROSA is a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status and is governed by a board of directors.

These are just two of many social enterprises realizing their goal of bettering the world and changing lives, creating long-lasting ripple effects, now and into the future.

4 Helpful Insights for Effective Internal CSR Communications

Internal Corporate Social Responsibility Communications

There are a number of benefits to having a strong internal communication strategy set up to explain your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, accomplishments, and future plans. Communicating internally about your company's CSR helps to inform individuals and departments, bring them "on board," and enhance participation. Here are 4 helpful insights on effective internal CSR communications.

Get Staff On Board

No matter your company's size, it is important that individuals and groups, or departments, understand how their roles are important in contributing to the larger goals of your business. Poor internal communication about CSR can have a number of impacts on its efficacy, a major one being that important individuals and departments may not understand how the program impacts their organizational functions, and, as a result, they may take no action to effectively support CSR program goals.

People work best when they understand how and why their work is making a contribution. To accomplish this, a company can create a CSR philosophy, or mission statement, in order to communicate and reiterate this to all new and veteran staff. As a result, this will appeal to them and show how CSR is not a separate and independent department, but an integral part of your organization. If you are able to convey the relationship between CSR and other departments as mutually beneficial and symbiotic, you will be able to foster employee buy-in and commitment to CSR.

Focus on Content

Whether you are communicating with staff or potential new hires, people are most interested in CSR programs that involve volunteerism or initiatives related to their interests. Just like college studenst may choose a course that incorporates one or more of their interests into the curriculum, workers will want to volunteer with CSR programs that incorporate their personal interests and talents, skills, etc. This may be obvious by the nature of the goods and services your company provides, or it may require obtaining feedback from a survey generated by your internal Communications Department to distribute and collect data.

Appealing to your staff's interests is a great way to select a CSR focus or program of interest, as well as an important aspect of your communication strategy. Appeal to employees interests in your communications. Explain to them what they will be doing, how their work and skills will benefit a program, and how they may benefit from their experience as well. This should be an ongoing process in your communication; continually establishing CSR as not only a foundation of your organizational culture, but also an important part of its functioning.

Choose a Vehicle for Your CSR Communication That Fits

Communication about CSR to your employees can take on many forms; choosing the vehicles of communication that are best for your company will require that you consider various things. One item to consider is how much money and time you want to devote to communicating about CSR. If you have limited funds to dedicate to your CSR communications, a very cost effective mechanism is via email or your company's intranet, if you have one. In addition, try to get individuals to communicate in person about CSR. Emails are easy to skim over, or just not read, and the same is true of intranet posts.

Incorporate your CSR communication into all-staff meetings, departmental meetings, or even meetings about benefit enrollments, etc. This is another vehicle for facilitating interpersonal, face-to-face communication about CSR. Employees can also ask questions and offer feedback in settings like this. You can even create meetings, either all-staff, or in smaller groups, strictly about CSR. Dedicating this sort of focus and time to CSR sends a clear message in itself that your organization values CSR and values employee involvement and their input about company CSR strategies and practices.

Suggestion boxes, whether they be tangible boxes in or around an office, or a virtual suggestion box online, is a great way to solicit feedback from employees about CSR. Remember, communication is a two-way street. You should communicate with employees about your CSR strategy, not at them.

Involve Leadership

Regardless of the size of your organization, communication should always, in some way, involve a leader in the company. You can have CSR newsletters and emails come from your CEO or bring them to speak at meetings or events. Whatever the method, involve leadership in CSR communication.

Aside from the content of the message itself, when a CSR newsletter comes from a CEO or other executive, there is an implicit message about the importance of CSR in your company. When leadership shows that they value the CSR initiatives of their organization, they are validating it for other employees and lower-level leaders. Their involvement, or lack of involvement, has a trickle-down effect; therefore it is in the best interests of the CSR department to heavily involve executives. Ideally, a CEO or other high-level executive will serve as the face of the company's CSR initiatives.

DeSantis-Breindel is a consulting agency that works with companies to improve a variety of functions, including employee engagement with CSR. They note the importance of leadership involvement with CSR communications: "A well thought-out branding and communications strategy, backed by the support of an engaged CEO, can align CSR activities with the corporate brand in a way that is both authentic and meaningful, and transform all volunteer, philanthropic and sustainability initiatives into culture-building activities" (Does CEO Engagement Lead to CSR Impact?).

These are just a few insights into what makes an effective internal communications strategy for CSR, which can increase commitment and participation among employees. If you would like to learn more about developing an internal communication strategy that is right for your organization, there are many guides and resources you can reference to build your strategy.

Here are a few suggestions for further reading:

CSR Europe: Internal Communication and Employee Engagement

EUROPA: A Guide to Communicating About CSR

Internal Communications and Employee Engagement 2013

Benefit Corporations

Benefit Corporations

What is a Benefit Corporation?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming a well-known term in the for-profit sector. As it has grown and become recognized as a necessary strategy for most corporations, it has also expanded and taken on new forms. One such unique form of CSR is its role as an overarching strategy for businesses, placing importance on social and environmental impact above net earnings. Benefit Corporations align their strategies, both internally and externally, on achieving a positive impact on society and the environment. They are unique from traditional corporations in a number of ways.

Benefit Corporations' strategies are geared toward achieving a positive social or environmental (often both) benefit. They are also held accountable to do as such. Unlike traditional corporations' obligation to make decisions in the financial best interests of shareholders, i.e. creating long-term shareholder value, benefit corporations are obligated to make decisions that are in the best interests of achieving their intended purpose of creating a positive social and environmental impact.

Benefit Corporations are unique for-profit agents of change because they are held to standards that other corporations are not. They are held accountable to achieve their proposed social and environmental impact, which is explicitly stated to shareholders and stakeholders. Benefit Corporations must publish an annual benefit report, in accordance with third-party standards, that illustrates their measured social and environmental impact. This accountability also serves as a form of transparency; it must be delivered to all shareholders and be published on a public website. There are many third-party reporting assessments that can benefit corporations in order to create the annual review report. Many third-party standards are geared toward assessing specific industries, such as food or textiles/clothing.

Several benefit corporations are highlighted below reflecting exciting and unique approaches that are being taken to generate positive social and environmental impacts worldwide.

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" - George Eliot

Inkkas

According to many fashion critics and magazines, 2014 was "The Year of the Sneaker." Even if that is up for debate, sneakers are a staple item in almost everyone's closet, and a shoe for the ages. It is safe to assume they will not be going out of style anytime soon. But, looking to get a pair of trendy new sneakers can also leave a positive "footprint" on the planet.

Inkkas is a socially and environmentally conscious fashion brand, "founded on the principles of fair-trade, philanthropy and authenticity." They sell shoes, bags and jewelry that are all handmade from local artisans in Peru and other countries, featuring the unique colors, patterns and designs that originated from the land of the Ancient Incas. Their impact is both social and environmental. Products are fair trade, contributing to the livelihood of the individuals who craft them, and the communities from which they originate.

Inkkas partnered with the non-profit Trees for the Future to create the OneShoeOneTree™ which assists in "the reforestation of the world's depleted forests" by planting one tree for every pair of shoes sold. This leaves a positive "footprint" in the world at large as well.

Raven + Lily

Raven + Lily is an online retailer that sells handmade, eco-friendly fashion, accessories, and home goods made from at-risk women in Kenya, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India and the Unites States. Raven + Lily has a collection dedicated to the crafts from women in each territory. For example, their Ethiopia Collection includes colorful statement jewelry pieces handcrafted by HIV+ women in Ethiopia. Their crafts are used as a form of empowerment; some of the most breathtaking pieces are crafted from beads and charms made from melted bullet castings from former war conflicts. Raven + Lily employs all of their women at fair trade wages and, beyond that, helps them to use their creativity, passion and stories to craft more than just beautiful clothing and jewelry but also sustainable lives for themselves and their families. They now employ over 1,000 women from 13 different artisan partnerships, and they are continuing to grow their socially and eco-friendly business.

Call2Action

It is clear that video, internet and social media are great tools for increasing leverage and impact in the social sector. What is not always clear is how. And that is where Call2Action comes in, providing individuals and organizations with their "Spark" tool which utilizes video to inform viewers about a specific cause or action-issue and then inspires them to take action. Spark is an addition to a YouTube video that allows for various action items after viewers have watched a video, such as signing up for a newsletter, sharing on other forms of social media, donating, or joining an effort. In many ways, Spark helps to remove barriers that obstruct potentially interested individuals from joining or donating to an effort. Call2Action provides customers with consulting around how to adapt their Spark videos to best fit the need of the customer and their goals, and to generate the most impact and leverage. One of their most successful campaigns was in partnership with Feeding America, the leading hunger relief organization in America. Call2Action helped Feeding America to make their action items in the videos customizable for local food banks, but still unified in their message.

Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part Three: Marathon

Skillful & Knowledgeable Volunteers

Marathon

Marathon Skills-Based Volunteering refers to a pro-bono volunteer effort, much like a marathon, that lasts over a short time period but involves a high volume of work and deliverables. Generally, Marathon volunteering involves pooling together many employees, along with their skills and resources, over a 24-hour time period to deliver services, tools, training, etc.

Getting Help with Your Marathon Project

CreateAthon is a nonprofit that helps to organize marathon pro-bono volunteer events across the country aimed at supporting nonprofits and businesses partnering together to bring to life Marathon volunteer days. They help businesses target the skills and human resources that can be offered and identify nonprofits that would be proper recipients. Their model provides a framework and network of support, resources, and contacts to greatly assist a business in the process of setting up a successful Marathon event: "Because we want you to put all of your energy into the creative process, we've developed an easily repeatable process for organizing, hosting and leveraging your own marathon creative events and compiled this step-by-step process in our easy-to-follow Toolkit" (Who We Are). Their guidance and "Toolkit" have helped over 101 businesses deliver over 2500 Marathon projects.

Case Study: Fleishman Hillard

Utilizing their industry specific skills and knowledge in PR and marketing, Fleishman Hillard was able to help Kids Street International target their messages to reach a younger donor population. Kids Street International recognized that their donor population was aging and that they should try to grow their donor base to reach younger audiences, but they did not have a clear idea of how to do this. Fleishman Hillard conducted a Marathon pro-bono volunteer event that helped Kids Street International to target younger donors by utilizing images and messages that related the younger audience to the younger population served by Kids Street International. "By mirroring the very same target demographic that Street Kids International assists globally, we created a social media strategy that included Facebook post, Tweets, and an infographic" (Case Study: Fleishman Hillard).

Getting Involved

If you would like to learn more about partnering with a nonprofit and CreateAthon to run a successful Marathon pro-bono event, visit them online and request an information packet that fits your organization!

Multinational & SME CSR Relationships

CSR for Large & Small/Medium Businesses

Much of the evolution in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) over the last decade has been driven by large multinational enterprises. The ambitious initiatives undertaken by some of the world's largest companies have made them leaders in the field. But, CSR also occupies an important place in many Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) creating an interesting dynamic with the multinational firms these companies often supply. A fascinating report by the World Bank Institute titled "Can Small Be Responsible" analyzes this dynamic in some detail. The report, based on dialogue from an e-Conference on CSR in SMEs, is internationally focused and a decade old. But, many of its conclusions are still relevant today for SMEs in a variety of cultural contexts. It raises many questions concerning the best way to form a CSR agreement that meets both parties' expectations.

The majority of comments concerning this topic centered on the one-sided dialogue that often plays out in these multinational SME CSR relationships. Multinational enterprises often demand SMEs attain their compliance standards without analyzing the unique challenges these demands create. Occasionally, loan schemes are provided to SMEs to reach these goals. The method is a very top-down approach and caters primarily to the multinational company's interest.

Some small businesses complain of other challenges as well. For example, satisfying the elaborate reporting systems of their multinational consumers is often difficult. But, the benefits the multinational companies bring can outweigh these kinds of difficulties, and the vast majority of experts agree that these large enterprises have been instrumental in exporting ethical business practices overseas and to SMEs.

Ultimately, in order to improve the CSR relationship of multinational companies and SMEs, both parties need to improve the ongoing dialogue. The report recommends that multinationals implement their policies with rewards to SMEs rather than demands. They can take advantage of the more entrepreneurial and less risk-averse spirit of their smaller suppliers. In the end, it comes down to improving the education of these small firms. By offering both guidance and support to SMEs while still allowing flexibility, multinational companies can extract the most from such an important part of their partnerships.

Community Needs Assessments and CSR

CSR Community Needs Assessment

What is a Community Needs Assessment?

A community needs assessment is a systematic process for identifying salient socio-political community issues, such as poverty, crime, health, education or unemployment. These are broad examples of topics that a needs assessment may identify as issues in a community with gaps between what is and what should be. Community needs assessments are effective when used to inform initiatives and programs meant to improve a community's societal well-being. Needs assessments may reveal concrete needs such as an improved system of public transportation, or a need that is more abstract and conceptual, such as a the need for a community to be more informed about issues of environmental health and sustainable living.

Why is a Community Needs Assessment Important for CSR?

As previously discussed, effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and initiatives generate both a societal benefit, and a business benefit, allowing for sustainable and credible corporate philanthropy. The concept of context-focused giving discusses how corporate philanthropy and business strategy can be combined by identifying contextual conditions most important to a company's strategy, growth and operations and developing a giving program that improves the nature of this context, creating social and economic benefits.

Corporate social responsibility should be geared toward addressing real needs in a community. Without referencing or conducting an analysis that identifies and measures community needs, giving programs are based in good ideas rather than solid evidence. Community needs assessments identify community needs as well as community assets and resources. Utilizing your community's strengths to address its weaknesses makes perfect sense, and a needs assessment will clearly identify both. Community needs assessments help organizations and individuals to better understand their communities and the potential micro-communities that exist within them. The biggest benefit to utilizing or conducting a community needs assessment is that it helps identify priorities for community improvement and to inform evidence-based, and often more effective, strategies for generating social and/or environmental community benefits.

How to Find or Conduct a Community Needs Assessment

Your company need not conduct its own community needs assessment to identify areas of improvement to target for your CSR programs. There are many community need assessments that have already been conducted and are available for review by the public. Most often, government or non-profit agencies have been responsible for conducting community needs assessments. A simple internet search can more than likely lead you to one or more community needs assessments that have been conducted for the area in which your company operates.

If you are not able to find a needs assessment that has already been conducted for your community, or if for any reason you would rather conduct your own community needs assessment, there are many tools and resources available for your CSR team to create your company's own. One great resource for learning more about community needs assessments is The Community Tool Box, a service of the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. One of their services is "Learn a Skill," a 46-chapter resource that provides information about a wide-variety of skills and practices for building and improving community. Chapter 3 provides an in-depth look at community needs assessments with many tools and strategies for conducting one. Another great resource is James W. Altschuld's "The Needs Assessment KIT," a set of 5 books that explain needs assessments, and takes readers through the phases of conducting a needs assessment and subsequent plan of community action.

 

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