Embracing Change in CSI
(Image credit: GroundUp)
We live in a fast-changing world, buffeted by shocks such as the Covid pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war, and climate change. Businesses are therefore required to be adaptable to changing conditions that threaten society, the economy, and the business environment. In such an unstable, complex world, it is easy to focus on operations and the ‘bottom line’, hoping that other crucial aspects of the business, including CSI/CSR strategies and brand identity, will adapt in the wake. This is however a mistake. Here’s why.
Why should companies find ways to align their CSR / CSI with current events?
In a world undergoing revolutionary change, continuing with linear unresponsive business strategies will lead to a growing gap between the needs of society and the company’s identity. An effective strategy to ensure that this gap is minimised is by linking an adaptive CSR/CSI strategy to the company’s brand identity. Brand identity changes slowly over time, but by ensuring that your CSR/CSI initiatives remain closely aligned with current events, you ensure that your brand remains fresh and in touch with the changing reality.
What if an external shock doesn’t align with a company’s CSI strategy?
Sometimes, an external shock arrives that may not directly align with a company’s corporate social investment (CSI) strategy or business objectives. In such circumstances, a business can elect to continue as if nothing happened. Yet this is potentially problematic because the company can easily be seen to be unresponsive, and depending on the type of shock, even uncaring.
This is where micro-initiatives are important. The overall business, brand, and CSR/CSI strategies may not have to change, but it is possible to introduce small measures and adjustments that demonstrate to stakeholders that the business is aware of what is happening around it, even if not directly affected. In addition, the business can collaborate with other companies that are directly affected to create shared value and foster connections with affected communities.
To illustrate, for causes that focus on CSR / CSI environmental sustainability, companies can target programmes that reduce their carbon footprint, promote renewable energy, use clean energy technologies, or support conservation efforts. Notable success stories include the Nedbank Green Economy strategy, the Bosch Climate Neutral action, and Walt Disney’s Community Goals. Businesses can also encourage employees to take part in volunteering events such as the Great Global Cleanup and offer paid volunteer leave.
This approach works well when the cause and the company’s brand are aligned. However, one might wonder how an industry like the financial sector can support environmental concerns? While the financial sector may not be directly tied to environmental concerns, companies can still demonstrate their support in various ways. They can incorporate environmental criteria in their investment decisions, fund projects related to clean energy, educate employees, raise awareness by putting up posters in the offices, and partner with environmental campaign organizations for joint initiatives or sponsorships. By doing so, they show their commitment and create a positive ripple effect within their sphere of influence.
By engaging regularly with stakeholders, conducting needs assessments, and fostering open dialogue, you can gain valuable insight into the changing needs of society and incorporate this feedback into your company’s ethos. This proactive approach allows you to address needs promptly, reinforcing your commitment to social responsibility, and ensures that your CSI initiatives are relevant, effective, and impactful. This increases shared value, and fosters a deep connection with communities which creates a lasting positive impact.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planets resources and ecosystems.
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