Due to climate change and stakeholders’ expectations, defining a CSR and a sustainability strategy has become mainstream in the business world. But to truly deploy these intentions internally and make effective progress, companies need to go even further. Here’s how a CSR network can help.

It is increasingly harder today to find large or even-mid size companies without a CSR strategy. But very often, this strategy is hard to implement internally: employees are not always well informed, some goals are often hard to implement or measure, different departments do not always cooperate or communicate as efficiently as expected… As a result, the effective impact of these companies and their ability to create positive changes are affected.

There’s a good strategy to overcome these issues: building a network of CSR reference-figures (aka internal champions) inside companies. True ambassadors of the sustainable development strategy of companies, these ambassadors can play a crucial role in helping different departments implement a true culture around corporate social responsibility (CSR).

A Network Of Internal CSR Ambassadors To Help Spread The Sustainability Strategy

Studies show company employees are not always aware of the CSR strategies that can or are supposed to be implemented within their organizations. However, most employees say they are interested in CSR. In fact, a study published in 2015 by Ekodev, Des Enjeux et des Hommes and Mindded showed 85% of employees said they wanted to get more involved with the CSR actions of their companies. But at the same time, nearly 60% of them felt like they were not being enough informed and involved.

This is a real problem because in order to be effective, a CSR strategy needs to be intrinsically understood and lived by everyone, especially employees. For instance, an eco-design policy is only effective if the engineers who will implement it on a daily basis are really informed what’s at stake (creating products that can be easily disassembled and so on…) and the importance of doing so.

From sales or purchasing divisions to marketing and product design: all areas of a company need to be informed about the greater mission behind the implementation of a CSR strategy. And for that, a network of CSR ambassadors may be the solution.

What Is A Network Of CSR Ambassadors?

To put it simply, a network of CSR ambassadors brings together voluntary employees who are interested in getting more involved with CSR issues. These ambassadors end up playing the role of informal leaders and have a crucial role in helping to disseminate the CSR strategy of the company within different organizational groups.

They are, therefore, employees who in addition to their original job description spend some of their working time training other colleagues on CSR subjects. They create internal dialogues on issues related to sustainable development and their achievements and constraints with the people whose work is to fully focus on the development of the CSR strategy.

Ideally, a network of CSR ambassadors should be made of employees coming from different departments, independently of their hierarchical positions or individual contributions to business success. From managers to salespeople or operational staff, everyone can be a CSR ambassador as long as there are different people covering all the spectrum of a company’s activities.

In the end, the idea is to enable employees throughout the company to better understand the organization’s CSR strategy. As a result, there will be a valuable flow of information coming from the CSR department to workers and back again to the origin. And this will allow better feedback and progress on issues like what needs to be better explained, what’s not working well or if there are irrealistic goals. Ultimately, a good communication will lead to more effective actions being prioritized, well implemented and well measured.

Developing A Network Of CSR Ambassadors Across Organizations Working On Their Sustainability

Beware that while creating a network of CSR ambassadors, there are a few best case practices worth following. First, define clearly the role and mission of your CSR ambassadors network. Is it simply a matter of informing and training employees? Or are you launching specific operational initiatives? Who are the members of the network? How much of their working time will CSR ambassadors need to spend working on CSR issues?

In order to set up a coherent project that achieves general consensus, all the issues above mentioned should be discussed directly with employees but also in agreement with their N + 1 and management. It is then also necessary to give the ambassadors network the means to work properly. First, they should probably get some specific training to better master the axes of the CSR strategy. Later it would be also important to established communication guidelines on how to report questions, challenges or feedback.

Finally, it will also be necessary to create a way of recognizing the network of CSR ambassadors and anchoring it with their annual reviews of performance. Perhaps the company’s large sustainability OKRs can unfold into a percentage of the individual goals of each ambassador?

Good luck! And remember: it’s better done than perfect.

[Image credits to shutterstock]