A Case for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
It’s easy to solely focus on making a profit for your business, after all that’s exactly why a company is founded for. But companies may overlook the social and environmental costs of doing business. It’s common knowledge that companies in Afghanistan operate in an extremely difficult environment, characterized by insecurity, political uncertainty, poor infrastructure, etc., which make doing business in Afghanistan a demanding journey. Yet, those same challenges offer to business owners and managers the opportunity to make a positive change every step of the way. Doing responsible business means you minimize the adverse side effects of your company’s work. For example, do you know your suppliers well enough to determine their products do not harm the environment? Are you sure they do not use child labor? What if the bank you use for your business finances illegal activities that destroy lives of ordinary people? Doing responsible business is about making sure your company does no harm to your society, environment, or country.
What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
It is a model of business that helps companies become responsible and accountable to a wide group of stakeholders including the public, customers and suppliers, the government, and their own employees and shareholders. Many scholars extend the definition from how a company uses its profits to how it makes its profits. CSR is applicable to every stage of your business. Good news is CSR is self-regulated, and perhaps the only set of regulations and policies that business leaders make by themselves.
As a business, you must aim to not only do no harm to the environment, people, and communities in Afghanistan, but also commit to helping build a better society. For many, the moral responsibility to help a struggling country is sufficient to justify adopting CSR. For others, it’s important to note that CSR is a way of business where you take care of the people, communities, and environment that are the source of your income (i.e. as customers, suppliers, products, etc.). With CSR and sustainable business, you are protecting your long-term survival and growth.
Will you start or take part in a CSR project this year? Do share your stories with us at [email protected]
How to Do Responsible Business?
How can a company build corporate social responsibility into its business model? The answer to this question can take hundreds of pages to explain. There are hundreds of books written on this, i.e. The Triple Bottom Line: How Today’s Best-Run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Success — And How You Can Too by Andrew W. Savitz. To try adopting CSR for your company, consider a few simple steps:
Step 1: Identify an Area of Interest & Importance to Your Business
There’s so much good you can do in Afghanistan. From housing, health, and education to water, energy, and infrastructure, all offer hundreds of problems you can tackle. You should choose an area that your business, shareholders, and employees feel passionate about. It should also somehow relate to your business model because you’re most likely to be effective where your business has a niche.
Step 2: Set Goals and Short-List Projects of Change
When you decide a specific project that contributes to the wellbeing of the society, you and your employees will passionately gather around the idea of being helpful. As a company, however, setting clear goals for your CSR work is mandatory. Goals and metrics will give your CSR effort a sense of direction. For example, your goal can look something like:
“In 2019, our company will support education of 500 children in Kabul through donation of one pack of stationary to each student, dedication of 2,500 hours of volunteer time from our staff, and sponsorship of a children’s tour to the city park.”
You can have multiple goals, but each has to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound).
Step 3: Allocate Resources
Companies have different levels and types of resources available to them. Your CSR goals are more likely to make an impact when you have specifically allocated company resources to meeting those goals. Start with capital. How much of your annual revenue or profit can you allocate to your company’s social work? If you can’t spare capital, can you provide free expertise to a cause? For example, if you are an IT company with many talented IT professionals, you may allocate certain hours or days in a week of their time to a social or environmental campaign that requires your company’s expertise. A few additional resource ideas include spare office space, unused stationery, computer equipment, contacts, internship opportunities, etc. If you look hard enough, be sure your company has a lot to offer.
Step 4: Select Champions & Build Relationships
Is someone in your company or network really passionate about your CSR project? Ask them to champion the project and lead it. Champions usually have a reputation for some type of good work and naturally fit a leadership role. Beyond your company, build relationships with organizations and individuals that buy into the idea. These relationships will help you augment and scale up the impact of your CSR project. Sometimes, these friendly organizations may become your long-term allies in your drive to make a positive social change.
Step 5: Take Action
Enough of planning and prep work. Actions speak louder. Make sure you start doing something as soon as you have reasonably planned your CSR project. Small steps and quick wins will motivate your CSR team to do more and carry out more significant work for your social project. If you wish to be more organized, you can develop a brief action plan for your CSR project for the year. List your activities and complement them with timelines, resource allocations, and responsible team members.
Step 6: Communicate Your CSR Project.
You might think talking about your social work is some kind of a show off and it’s better to just do it without bragging about your social causes. Remember why you chose to take on CSR projects in the first place? To make a positive impact! Well, communicating the results and the motivation behind your corporate social responsibility will have a multiplier effect where many other businesses and individuals take on their own CSR projects or yours. The more the merrier. Talking about your good social work is part of the mission to making the society, environment, and communities better for everyone. As you go along, keep promoting your work. It will contribute to your company’s brand and customers will have empathy with your cause, feeling proud to buy your products or services. In a way, you will be creating brand ambassadors for your business by doing responsible business that the public appreciates. So, communicate your work every step of the way.
Step 7. Evaluate Performance & Acknowledge Lessons Learned
It’s critical to the sustainability of your CSR effort to evaluate the impact of your first-year social work. Measure the results by documenting the activities themselves, quantifying the outputs of your effort, capturing any changes in the lives of your beneficiaries, and assessing efficiency of your work. However, CSR is not solely about the numbers. Make sure you speak to the beneficiaries and ask about their experiences of your CSR project. Ask them for feedback and things they liked the most about your social work. Remember your business is a going concern and you would want to incorporate this year’s lessons learned in your future CSR work. Learning is a lifelong journey, especially from your own experiments and projects.