In her book, Just Good Business, UC Berkeley business professor Kellie McElhaney reveals the surprising results of an IBM Institute for Business Value study. IBM found that 68 percent of business leaders worldwide are focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR) to create new avenues of cash flow, and 54 percent are convinced that their companies' CSR activities give them a competitive edge over their top competitors.
Increasingly, employees and customers want to affiliate with businesses that make a priority of social responsibility. And companies are responding in a big way. McDonald's, for example, has announced a variety of earth-friendly initiatives. Starbucks is working to develop completely recyclable cups. Ikea, Royal Caribbean, and SeaWorld have banned plastic straws.
The good news is that putting the power of corporate social responsibility to work for you can lead to major changes with just a handful of simple, easy-to-implement ideas. Here are five of the most powerful:
1. Create a vision of a better future.
Do you have a clear vision of the future of your business? Do you have a strong culture and set of core values, and do they align with your vision? If not, then that's where you need to start. Create a vision of a better future that is aligned with your company's core values and culture. Anything less will lead to disconnects and confusion between your company, employees, and customers.
2. Walk your talk.
It's not enough to throw together a CSR program and put it out into the world -- you've actually got to do what you say you're going to do. Remember: your employees, your customers, and the communities in which you do business are watching you closely. They'll notice right away if you're not walking your talk.
3. Have a strong kickoff then closely monitor results.
Once you create a CSR program, you'll need to kick it off in a splashy and very public way. Make sure that your employees, your customers, and the public at large are very well aware of your program. This will enable them to align with it. And once you get your program off the ground, monitor results to see if it's delivering your desired outcomes.
4. Keep customer needs and preferences in mind.
Ultimately, whatever CSR program you put in place must meet the needs of your customers. Why? Because you want and need them to support your efforts -- and your business -- as you roll it out. Remember that some of your current employees and customers may not agree with your program, and they may leave. But so long as your CSR program reflects your company's values and culture, then you'll attract the right people at the right time.
5. Recruit enthusiastic people to your cause.
Create a virtuous circle for your business by recruiting enthusiastic people to your cause, including employees, customers, and the public. The more closely aligned they are with your vision for the future, the more excited they will be to help you achieve it.