The whole idea of making corporate social responsibility an essential part of a company’s business model started way back in the 1800s. During that time, business owners really took social responsibility seriously because they knew that if they acted negligently, their operating license could be taken away from them.
Fast-forward two decades later to 1819 and you’ve got a landmark ruling that practically gave businesses free will to do as they liked. The distinction of corporations as legal people, as set out by the 1819 Supreme Court ruling, meant that the responsibility to do good rested solely on business owners and was no longer enforced by law.
However, despite this ruling, we still see a lot of businesses doing good voluntarily and on a consistent basis, regardless of the fact that it comes at a cost to their bottom line.
Some of the biggest corporations in the world today are known for their acts of good will, and many spend untold amounts on ensuring that the social responsibility part of their brand identity is carried out in the company culture as well.
So, how do they do it and why? And what can you do to emulate their behavior?
Check out the following examples of companies who’re the most prominent models of social responsibility to find the answers to all these three questions and more.
So far, the Google Corporation has gone to great lengths to establish itself as a socially conscious brand. Take for example their Google Green initiative, which saw the company reducing their energy costs by up to 50% in their data centers alone since its inception!
How did they do it? It’s so simple you won’t even believe it! You see, Google simply decided to do the sensible thing in their data centers by switching off the lights in areas that were not in use, using renewable energy where possible and promoting recycling among its employees.
The best part about this strategy is that it not only translated into great PR for Google but also contributed to the company’s coffers so that they were able to channel those savings into other areas of their business.
Similarly, smaller companies can experience exponential growth by embracing social responsibility in different ways, from placing recycling bins in the office space, to installing energy efficient light bulbs and using the HVAC more responsibly.
Xerox has done a great job at getting employees involved in its social responsibility efforts through its Community Involvement Program, an initiative that the company started in 1974. Through this program, Xerox employees are given the opportunity to actively participate in the development of their communities by taking part in initiatives that they hold dear.
In fact, Xerox went as far as putting aside $1.3 million to ensure the success of this program, and in return the company not only increased brand visibility in the affected areas but also improved the morale and productivity of their employees, who now felt that they were working for a brand that they could be proud of.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to spend $1.3 million in order to follow in Xerox’s footsteps. You can simply commit to giving your employees a certain amount of billable hours each year to help out in their local community. Then, you can use that time to work as a team for the improvement of your community, from cleaning up the local beach to helping out at your nearest soup kitchen or children’s home, and even organising awareness events to raise funds for organisations that need it. The possibilities are endless.
While it’s true that some of the social responsibility examples we mention here might seem daunting due to their scale, it’s entirely possible to apply the same principles in a smaller and more relatable scale. That’s exactly what retail giant Target did when they started contributing some of their funds towards the environmental and social development of the communities in which the company operates.
They started small by awarding educational grants to a few students here and there, and then they started contributing to environmental projects whose aim was to raise awareness about and improve ecological sustainability.
Over time, Target managed to contribute just over 5% of its revenue towards the development of local communities. In fact, as of 2018, Target has contributed almost $900 million towards education alone and more than $4 million per week in numerous other causes.
When it comes to the auto industry, BMW is undoubtedly a trailblazer in innovative social responsibility. It all started when the company challenged itself to help 1 million or more people by the year 2020. Obviously, this is no easy feat even for a large corporation like BMW, but in true German fashion, the company has taken the challenge head-on by tackling large groups of people at a time.
Take their Schools Environmental Education Development Project for example, in which the company is able to reach thousands of students around the world to understand the social and environmental challenges facing the world today. Not only that but they’ve done a great job at ensuring that their CSR initiatives align well with their business model too.
Most people who buy Starbucks coffee don’t know this but CSR played a huge role in transforming the coffee behemoth into what it is today. From day one, Starbucks has always prioritised social responsibility, as evidenced by the C.A.F.E program which is aimed at ensuring that the company is guided by social and economic responsibility in all its operations.
Later on, they went on to partner with Ethos Water to provide clean drinking water to over 1 billion people in need. So what makes people choose Starbucks over their competitors is more than just the quality of its product, but also the company’s ability to embrace its responsibility towards the community, and not as a burden but as a privilege.
While most small companies won’t be able to achieve the massive feats of social responsibility exemplified by the above corporations, it’s still possible to weave CSR into any company culture. You can start small by helping out one or two good causes in your community or get actively involved with your team through volunteering and other means.
This will not only motivate your employees but will also earn you loyalty from your community.