Remember back in high school when you had mandatory summer reading?
The books weren’t that bad, in fact many of them were literary classics that you might otherwise have enjoyed. But there are incentives and competing interests at play that change your experience with these books, despite the fact that you are consuming the same content. Here are five reasons why ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) has that ‘required reading’ feeling, what you can do to redefine it for your business, and how you can maximize impact for your employees, customers, and of course, the world.
1. Choice is Key
If you choose to pick up a certain book, you are already naturally engaged in the subject matter. Now this book may have been recommended to you, but we know that everyone has different preferences and priorities, so heeding a recommendation (or not) and making your own selection is a positive first step.
Instead of presenting employees with one or two options for mandated CSR activities, give them the opportunity to participate in a range of selected causes. This enables them to choose what resonates with them most, and feel more connected to the projects they select. The more inspired and engaged employees are, the better for the general business culture and product.
2. Opportunity Costs Affect Attitude
When you are assigned a summer reading book, it means the time spent reading that book is time that you otherwise could spend reading another novel, playing sports or going out with friends. You are constantly weighing what other things you could be doing instead of what you have to be doing (consciously or not.) CSR activities might be interesting or fun, but they take time away from getting your other tasks completed, therefore soaking up more of your potential leisure time.
But you can move ‘giving activities’ to the top of that ‘time well spent’ list by increasing individual impact. If you can show employees how much of a difference each and every one of them is making, they are more inclined to be content with the resources spent on each of these projects, making them want to dedicate more time to giving activities in the future.
3. Deadlines and Rules Ruin Experience
It’s the last day of summer, and you still have 200 pages left to read. We’ve all been there. So you either a) rush through and skim the remainder of the book or b) read Cliffsnotes or online summaries. You can miss important takeaways when you take shortcuts, and the same is true for CSR. Getting caught up in completing minimal or one-time CSR activities for your quarterly report and tax returns doesn’t translate to the most effective giving for anyone involved.
Habitual giving (which looks great for investors and consumers) transforms the experience, and therefore the results. Take the ‘one for one’ model where companies give back for every transaction made—this regular giving truly transforms the meaning around the action so that everyone gets more out of it, and more often. It’s something special they can take away from the workplace every day.
4. Plot Points Overshadow Appreciation
Building of the last point of cramming everything in at the last minute, you also scan required reading for specific details that you might be tested on, as opposed to taking away the general themes and appreciating the beauty of the story. If the priority for your CSR program is ticking off checkmarks that look good for PR purposes, you’re not focusing on the overall experience for you, your employees AND your clients or customers. Try transforming ‘giving’ into a ‘gift’ to deepen this appreciation. If your clients receive the ‘gift of giving’ and are able to help someone in need because of your business transaction, you leave them with a deeper appreciation for the cause and your company.
5. The Ending Doesn’t Matter
When you finally finish the book, you breathe a sigh of relief, and just want to tie a bow and be done with it. You’re not as interested in sharing it with others or reading the next book in the series if you never had the opportunity to be excited by the original. But the story can leave such a larger impression if it was read organically. The same is true for CSR. One project is good for a community, but to maximize the reach of your team, they should want to share their experience and continue engaging in it. A cycle of sharing, feedback and engagement should be heavily promoted.
These comparisons are not to say that required reading and traditional CSR are without merit. But if you are compelled by this new way of looking at and thinking about CSR, you can find out more here and start implementing these strategies though joining the Buy1GIVE1 community. And remember, CSR is not just for large corporations. Small and medium sized businesses can easily implement giving programs too.