CSR is how businesses both small and large use their resources to make a positive contribution to the world. And while we might be most familiar with CSR as huge enterprises funding global warming research, corporate responsibility also looks like a small cafe donating fresh food to the local food bank.

And there are important lessons to learn from both.

CSR isn’t about how much money an organisation puts into its cause. It’s about building trust, raising awareness and encouraging social change. And with the effects of COVID-19 shuttering the doors of countless businesses and a big shift in priorities, the need for corporate responsibility is more important than ever.

Here are six small but meaningful ways to build corporate responsibility into your business model—both during and post COVID.

6 meaningful ways to build CSR into your business model

1. Focus on the people you depend on the most

When we think of CSR, many of us might automatically assume it’s all consumer-facing, but good social responsibility starts at home. 

The top priority for every business should be ensuring employee safety and comfort. And while this needs to stretch to all employees, it’s especially important to think carefully on this if your employees need to work on-site and are exposed to other people.

The first step is ensuring the physical space provides the utmost safety for employees with stringent precautions. While there’s no generic solution for this, one change every business can make right now is to give employees as much flexibility as possible to carry out their tasks.

If employees can’t work from home, consider extending the flexibility to working hours too. Childcare and eldercare have become a more prominent concern and is forcing many to prioritise between work and home responsibilities. You can alleviate employee stress by letting them know there’s some wiggle room to fit their schedule.

2. Provide free offerings

Pret A Manger is an excellent example of altruism throughout the year, and even more so since the global outbreak began. 

Before the government imposed the new lockdown laws, Pret was already offering free hot drinks and a 50% discount on everything else for all NHS workers.

If your business can manage it, look into where you can provide free offerings to customers who may need it the most. Not only will you be making a huge and positive contribution to your community, but it’s something customers will remember about you and the way your business responded to a crisis.

3. Reassure customers, but don’t spam

Customers appreciate reassurance, especially when more brands are having to close their doors and limit their services and products.

If you have special measures in place to protect employees, let your customers know. If you’re operating in a different way due to the most recent distancing rules, let them know. If you sell a particular product that is generally very high-demand (and it’s still available), make sure your customers know how to access it.

But what you don’t want to do is to publish constant updates on your social media and add unnecessarily to the noise and anxiety surrounding the pandemic. 

Keep your customers in the know with important updates and check-ins but remember to keep it simple, short and positive

4. Use your resources for direct help

It goes without saying, but if your business is in a position to directly help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, act on it. 

Digital manufacturer HP is a great example—in response to the pandemic, the company started 3D-printing medical parts for hospitals around the world. Led by their research and development work in the US and Spain, the company used its resources to produce face masks, face shields, hands-free door openers and nasal swabs.

Clothing brands can provide face masks for medical workers. Distilleries and breweries like Pernod and Brewdog started producing hand sanitizer gel, and almost everyone can reach out to local charities to find out how to best support them with your time.

5. Help your community help others

The most vulnerable members of society are also the most impacted by a crisis. And with the current COVID-19 outbreak, they’re also the most likely to need extra support from their community.

People with pre-existing health conditions, or the elderly, are at a greater risk of developing more serious health complications, and those without access to healthcare may not get the care they need.

You and your business can help the most vulnerable by setting up fundraiser options for your employees, stakeholders, or customers. The GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund is a great example and is supported by employees all over the world, including those from Microsoft and VF Corporation.

6. Provide grants to the local community

There’s no shortage of need for funding right now.

While needs vary from community to community, cash gifts are likely to be more appreciated, as organisations have the freedom to distribute the funds in the most effective way.

Hardships are higher than usual, so any donations you can make will help—particularly for nonprofits who are vital to the COVID-19 response but may lack the capacity and resources to fundraise on a large scale.

If your business is in a position to either make or award grants, consider who you can help the most and reach out to them to find out how you can contribute.

Building corporate social responsibility into your business model

Making an impact doesn’t mean you’re expected to take extraordinary measures or pay employees large stipends you can’t afford. 

It does, however, mean looking at your current resources to understand how you can help the community, and then putting that into action to make a valuable contribution.

So whether you can provide immediate relief like cash donations or if you can simply help to reassure your community, now’s the time to look inward and assess how to use your resources to do good. 

Smart submission software can help you get there. With powerful insights to help you maximise your impact and smart tools to simplify a heavy task, you can reach more people and strengthen your philanthropic approach—all with a completely streamlined process.

Start implementing these tips for small yet meaningful ways to build CSR into your business model. With the right approach and tools behind your team, you can raise awareness, build trust and make a bigger impact on your customers and community.

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