csr tips 2020

André Gonçalves - Editor & Head Of English Market

After studying and working in HR, André studied sustainability management at Lisbon's School Of Economics & Management. He is responsible for the English speaking market of Youmatter since 2018.

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Developing an organization’s CSR strategy and CSR reporting is one if the permanent challenges CSR managers face. In this piece we share 5 tips on how to help companies transition to a more sustainable path in 2020.

1 – Train Employees And Share Your Sustainability Challenges With Them

This is one of the fundamental challenges for the next decade: training and informing employees about CSR and sustainable development issues.

Yes, creating and putting a CSR strategy in place can be both inspiring and “cool” at the beginning. But if you don’t take the time to train employees, if there is no plan to help them integrate and assimilate the organization’s main impacts, concerns, and ambitions, it can be a waste of energy, inputs and collective resilience.

Employees are the ones effectively implementing sustainable development policies. Engineers that try to create products made using eco-design techniques, marketers thinking of how to share good CSR practices with interested parties and how to engage these stakeholders, salespeople sharing the need for a positive change and how their product is different with customers and partners… 

Without disseminating a company’s sustainability and CSR strategy internally with employees – how it plans to execute and why it is important that it happens – how can workforces be aware of it? Without some training or a collective sharing moment, odds are all the plans made by CSR managers will stay close to them instead of spreading across an organization and its external sphere.

2 – Be More Authentic And Transparent

There is a large number of companies (especially medium-large size ones) doing CSR. But those who really make a difference through their sustainable development strategy are those who stand transparent and act authentically.

In the age of the Internet and social networks, it is essential that companies share as much information as possible across their CSR reporting tools. Admittedly, they will not all be good or brilliant, but with a little more in-depth, detail and pedagogy, it becomes possible to make people understand the context and the impacts of organizations and what they are doing about it. 

Moreover, a modest positioning is likely better accepted than the traditional communication of companies on CSR subjects where they claim everything is always fine and only the good practices (which aren’t sometimes the most impactful ones) are shared. Consumers are increasingly aware of these “ greenwashing ” communication techniques and their discontentment becomes more evident as boycotts and blocking and denunciation actions multiply. So if companies don’t walk their talk and their speeches are too far off reality they might be putting themselves in a dangerous place.

It is only thanks to a work of transparency that an authentic, sincere CSR strategy can be implemented. A gradual transition movement towards sustainability by using clear indicators, quantified metrics and an effective impact measurement (for which methodologies such as the theory of change might be useful) is the way to go. In the end, it is better that organizations share the long road they have ahead then to say they are almost there when they haven’t even started.

3 – Find Your Internal Network Of CSR Ambassadors

A network of CSR ambassadors gathers employees interested in getting more involved with CSR issues who play a role of informal leaders. As they help disseminate the an organization’s sustainability strategy internally (but also externally as overall brand ambassadors) they become very important from a CSR awareness perspective.

Ideally made of employees from different departments so that there is a wider CSR “contamination” effect, these ambassadors dedicate some of their working time to spread the CSR ambitions or progress of an organization.

As a result of having this CSR network, a very valuable flow of information coming from the CSR department to workers and back again to the origin is created. Hence, employees will be more aware of what’s going on regarding sustainability issues, give more feedback and perhaps suggestions from those really working “on the ground” and directly with the impacts can come too.

4 – Review Your “Why”

Putting nice words and expressions together and creating a “why” (reason to exist) or even a manifesto is usually a nice and encouraging process. In the quest to figure out or redefine how a company adds or can add value (not just financial but natural, emotional, cultural, intellectual…) to society and the planet – team meetings take place, consultancy agencies can be hired and communication plans defined.

All good – but there is one fundamental thing that needs to be considered: the transformation of the business model to a sustainable one. Obviously there should be an action plan of the transition that follows. But the point is that redefining communications and isolated problems without a sincere effort to connect them to the core of an organization’s business and its offers won’t allow businesses to truly live their “why”.

In 2020, it is of interest of companies to reflect on their “why”. But thinking about it means finding ways to transform and adapt. Communication and marketing concerns should come only after.

5 – Follow Standards And Certifications

If an organization has been embracing CSR for some time, has some good work to show and a strong ambition to get to the next level, taking sustainability reporting to the next level by applying for recognized standards can be a good idea.

Starting to develop internally sustainability impact documents based on standards such as the one from the Global Reporting Initiative aggregated with the SDGs framework can be a good idea. Applying for a B Corp certification and getting more notoriety due to being among some of the companies doing the best jobs for the planet and society can also be an interesting bet.

Despite being less famous, other standards are also very effective and provide very good overall initial guidance on some key CSR topics. Among them, there is the ISO 26000 concerning social responsibility, ISO 140001 about environmental management, ISO 50001 on energy management or ISO 9001 on quality management.

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