In August 2017, I spoke about Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, to the Vancouver chapter of eWomenNetwork. After my talk, the first question I was asked was how I started my journey to running a socially responsible company.
Conscious PR is Born
Through a client I worked with in the fourth year of running my Public Relations business, I began networking with other “conscious” people whose companies operated for the good of people or the planet. I was hooked. I was growing my yoga and meditation practices and reading a lot of self-help books at the time, so my childhood values of caring for others and saving the planet were reawakened.
At the end of that year, the phrase “Conscious PR” popped into my head. Months later, I launched the brand to test the market and attracted amazing clients, ones I resonated with personally. I knew I was on the right track. CSR runs through our DNA through our Cultural Manifesto, the types of clients we work with, the people I bring onto my team, and how we treat each other.
At the beginning of 2015, I was intuitively called to pursue B Corporation® Certification, which I had learned about at the time of our re-brand. We received our certification in May 2016, becoming the fourth PR firm in Canada to achieve it. Because of B Corporation’s rigorous standards, when you are certified, you’ve already made leaps to becoming socially responsible.
What is CSR?
So back to CSR. What does it mean? I like this definition spelled out by The World Business Council for Sustainable Development: "Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large."
I like that the definition highlights economic prosperity, people, community, and society. I also like to add in the planet, because without a healthy planet, we can’t care for ourselves. If companies don’t take steps to be proactively responsible, when things go wrong and cause harm to people or communities, that’s when a Public Relations crisis ensues. That’s why PR is linked so closely to CSR.
Company executives must address concerns for social or charitable initiatives if they want to attract and keep good employees in the future. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial survey says that 9 in 10 millennials believe that business success should be measured in more terms than just financial performance.(1)
If companies don’t take steps to be proactively responsible, when things go wrong and cause harm to people or communities, that’s when a Public Relations crisis ensues.
How can businesses start to be socially responsible?
1. Know Your Values & Share Them
When people start their businesses, they don’t take time to identify what their business stands for or share their company values with employees and their community. Values help you stand out.
2. Don't Reinvent the Wheel
It’s easy to research and look at companies that inspire you and their Corporate Social Responsibility policies, cultural manifestos or brand books, like Netflix’s Cultural Manifesto.(2)
3. Know Your Products & Service Supply Chain, and that of Your Providers
If you make or sell products, have you taken steps to ensure that they are safe for customers? If you run a service business, have you investigated your supply chain and other service providers? These are such key decisions for a business owner that also determines how responsible you are as a company.
4. Create CSR Polices & Programs with Your Staff
Sustainability leadership and transformational business expert Coro Strandberg’s Social Purpose Continuum is a great tool that breaks down how you can become social responsible in each area of a business, from philanthropic to social mission-based.(3) Strandberg also recommended I share the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility’s Transformational Company Qualities with you.(4)
Show Off Your Social Responsibility
And lastly, show how you are being socially responsible. If we don’t talk about all the great things we’re doing in our companies, our customers and clients won’t know how we care for people or the planet, or differentiate us from our competitors. Third-party certifications are another way that you can show at a glance that you’ve done your due diligence as a company.