There is little doubt that the objective of corporate enterprises is to walk down the ‘growth path’ and improve profitability. However, one has to ask: is staying profitable the be-all and end-all for companies? The answer is a ‘no’, as enterprises are straining every nerve to think beyond ‘profitability’. Most corporate enterprises are showing a ‘real intent’ by engaging in social/environmental programs, which bodes well for the future.
Over the past two decades, enterprises have been starting to take CSR activities in a big way. According to an iamwire report, global software giant Microsoft has been pumping billions of dollars in CSR programs. Microsoft’s most recent effort is the cloud for global good initiative, a roadmap of 78 specific policy recommendations to help ensure trusted, responsible and inclusive cloud computing. The IT bellwether has worked closely with many non-profit organizations and is publishing an annual CSR report. Microsoft even asks its employees to spend a certain number of hours each month on volunteering activities for issues that are close to their heart. Another example is Google – the search giant’s CSR initiative is aiming to make businesses more reliant on renewable sources of energy.
Of course, there are also notions that companies tend to carry out CSR programs sans any ‘real focus’. This could be true in some cases, but a large chunk of companies are committed to stimulating positive change through their CSR initiatives.
CSR initiatives hold the key for companies
CSR initiatives are of crucial interest for most companies because there is a strong feeling that they must shoulder ‘some sense of responsibility’ in addressing social issues that are otherwise largely dealt with by government agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs. There are broadly two types of corporate social responsibility programs:
- Providing funding and resources for social causes (such as donating money to charities, NGOs, etc.)
- Designing products/services that are in the best interests of society, environment-friendly, etc.
However, there are incentives beyond the intrinsic pull to noble causes as well – a strong CSR portfolio can surely help enterprises showcase how much they yearn to do something for the society. The dynamics of businesses are such that clients look at companies with an extra interest if they demonstrate a robust CSR background. Thus, a highly effective community engagement program paves the way for companies to gain potential business.
For global corporates, CSR initiatives have become an integral part of their business strategy. A study conducted by New York-based private global consulting firm Reputation Institute revealed that reputation is increasingly playing a major role in how companies are bagging client wins. The study says that willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company depends to 60% on the company’s reputation and only to 40% on the reputation of its products or services. In conclusion, the bottom-line is that CSR activities enhance the feel-good factor about the company and contribute to employee satisfaction.
Challenges in implementing CSR activities
No doubt, the organization of a CSR activity has its own share of challenges. The biggest of them is ‘execution’ – any CSR initiative without a proper strategy will ultimately fail. The effective implementation of a CSR drive demands the active involvement of all stakeholders. A CSR initiative cannot be termed a ‘success story’ unless it enjoys the unstinted support of all employees. It is also a good idea to include existing clients/customers in CSR activities as this would provide them a helicopter view of how the CSR initiative is conducted.
Futile exercise sans adequate publicity
CSR initiatives must exude a strong community feeling ingrained in them. Thus companies must refrain from half measures. It is also imperative to generate the right kind of ‘buzz’. In some cases, inadequate publicity may defeat the purpose of conducting CSR initiatives. However, media publicity of CSR activities is one aspect that firms ignore at times. Enterprises should value the essence of creating a buzz about their CSR programs. Utilizing social networks and ensuring the attention of traditional media can help to reach a large audience. It is also imperative for businesses to monitor the impact of their CSR programs, and consistently improve future initiatives.
Clearly, CSR initiatives would only get bigger in intensity going forward. Such initiatives are no longer confined to large or mid-sized companies. Even startups have quickly realized the importance of CSR drives and have readily chosen to embrace their corporate social responsibility. Surely, the coming years are poised to see CSR emerge as an indispensable feature of companies.
SG Analytics has been at the forefront of CSR. The company had set up four toilet blocks at Pirangut village in Mulshi in June 2015 – a large-scale CSR initiative. In the following year, SG Analytics again came up with another CSR initiative in November 2016 – cleaning up the river banks of Mula-Mutha in Pune.