Thinking strategically about the corporate social responsibility of a company, organisation or individual, one must not overlook the most important document in terms of organisation, i.e. a CSR strategy. It is a document which describes and defines the directions of our present and future activities.
Worldwide leaders of corporate social responsibility, but also a steadily growing number of companies, organisations and individual people in Poland systematically develop their own CSR strategies. The awareness of the possibilities that follow from combining a basic business model with a CSR strategy is a fact. Correlation of processes, policies, procedures and sometimes even their mutual interdependence are becoming a basis for management efficiency in terms of organisation.
What is a CSR strategy?
A CSR strategy is a comprehensive direction of activity of a company, organisation or individual, coherent with their business vision. It is an overall idea about the mission of an organisation, and its underlying principles are the following activities:
- social and cultural,
Strategy is evaluative in character. It means that it ought to be based on specific values pervading the entire organisation. This refers not only to declarations and communication of activities, but also to business processes, strategic planning, evaluation as well as conclusions. A significant element of a CSR strategy is its measurable business character. This means developing solutions the results of which can be measured, verified and evaluated by using key performance indicators, rankings and balanced scorecards, among others.
Why do we need a CSR strategy?
A CSR strategy supports and builds the value of a company, organisation or brand – it organises it and gives it a strategic direction, it defines its goals as well as ways of achieving them. It is a signpost which allows to manage relations and operations within an enterprise. A lack of a strategy makes it impossible to measure efficiency, to estimate long-term profitability of activities undertaken or to introduce coherent changes at the level of processes and projects. A CSR strategy also enables to identify weaknesses and strengths as well as to define opportunities and dangers. Moreover, it makes it possible to evaluate the present state of affairs in relation to established norms and standards such as ISO 26000, the GRI guidelines, Global Compact and SA8000.
An important aspect of the process of building a strategy is the inclusion of research results of employees, consumers, the society, cultural trends and the expectations of clients, investors and suppliers. A strategy helps us to find the so-called nuggets, i.e. areas where we can gain an upper hand over our competitors in the market. A CSR strategy is after all a future investment and its rate of profit is disproportionate to our expenditure.
A few important rules for the construction of CSR strategies
Dictionary of Business English (1989) defines the term strategy in the following way: a strategy is a plan which includes tasks relating to the functioning of an organisation in the future and the responsibility to carry out those tasks belongs to individuals within the chief management of the organisation. This general statement does a good job of reflecting the foundations of strategic thinking in relation to CSR. Just like any business or management strategy, this strategy naturally has its own unique attributes. And so, what needs to be kept in mind as we start to develop a CSR strategy?
Creating value. When they start to develop strategic solutions, all organisations ought to base their activities on a unique and individual foundation of values. These values must be defined, described and communicated in a way that makes it understandable for all the interested parties.
Constructing organisational culture. It is essential to describe organisational culture in all its forms with the use of verbal, graphic or visual attributes. Such an attitude will introduce the necessary order at an early stage of work.
Defining a vision of the future. In other words, a higher goal of the social responsibility of your business needs to be highlighted. Paint a picture that shows your path and the entire context around it. Visualisation is very helpful for any business practice.
Describing ways of fulfilling your vision. For this aim, it makes sense to use tested norms, standards and guidelines. Before you do it, compare everything, analyse, research and do a lot of reading. Seek inspiration from good examples available in the market. Finally, decide if your choices are appropriate for the activities of your organisation.
Involving people. Without the support of experts representing other key business fields it is unlikely to develop a good strategic plan for CSR. The key skill is then using the experiences of all tiers of the organisation – necessarily including the board in the process.
Using key performance indicators. The times when CSR was used to describe certain phenomena are long gone. The key of a good strategy is its measurement, therefore it is crucial to define both higher and lower rank aims – direct and indirect, strategic and operational. Without this, your strategy is not a strategy.
What benefits does a CSR strategy bring?
The number of benefits resulting from a well-prepared strategy is proportional to the amount of courage a given organisation is willing to expend to deal with the difficulties that occur during the development of that strategy. Every strategic project brings a certain amount of knowledge about the organism that a given organisation is. It is a kind of a cross-sectional research that allows to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. It also gives us a chance to clearly see the opportunities and threats that will follow in the long term from certain activity – or lack thereof. At this point it needs to be emphasised that profit does not have identical value for everyone. However, in spite of benefits that are significant only for a given organisation, there are also some that can be tagged as universal:
- Human capital
- Financial capital
- Education capital
- Social capital
- Natural capital
Each of these universal capitals is additionally supported by numerous benefits for the organisation. A well-developed CSR strategy can influence these capitals – it can shape them in a way which develops and strengthens the value of the entire organisation.