Is Your Corporate Social Responsibility Strategic?
With another busy season behind us, now is a great opportunity to think about what comes next. For many of our member firms, this means revisiting marketing and business development activities that were put on hold. These next six to eight weeks are a great opportunity to refocus, plan and implement. One area to consider evaluating might be your approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
CSR is a complex concept and depending on the organization, subject to a wide range of interpretations. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines CSR as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.”
Undertaking CSR initiatives is more than just a goodwill gesture, it’s an integral component of an accounting firm’s overall strategy and day-to-day operations. Below are three important reasons to invest in your firm’s CSR.
- Recruit and retain staff
Employee retention is something every accounting firm faces. It’s time to think differently about how your firm will attract and retain talent, especially millennials which will account for 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025. According to a 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, 76 percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Nearly 64 percent of millennials will not take a job if the potential employer does not have strong CSR practices.
- Enhance the firm’s reputation and social standing in the community
CSR programs should reflect the firm’s business values while simultaneously addressing social and environmental challenges. A successful CSR initiative will not only enhance the firm’s reputation but also contribute to the community they are a part of by providing solutions to social and environmental challenges.
- Generate new revenue streams
As demographics shift and technology advances, diversifying your revenue streams beyond compliance driven services will be increasingly important. Believe it or not, CSR can be a growth opportunity as well as a philanthropic tool. When properly aligned with business objectives, integrating CSR into your core business strategy has the potential to differentiate the firm and serve as a gateway to enter new markets. In a survey of 250 business leaders worldwide, IBM found that organizations are increasingly utilizing CSR as an opportunity and a platform for growth. According to the survey, 68 percent of the business leaders surveyed are focusing on CSR activities to create new revenue streams.
We have seen an assortment of CSR activities among our member firms. A few of the most common include collecting and donating money to local charities and disaster relief funds, a designated day of service, food and clothing drives, initiatives aimed at reducing the firm’s carbon footprint, as well as a variety of program sponsorships. These programs support philanthropic initiatives but do they also benefit the firm’s core guiding principles?
CSR programs need to be more than feel-good activities. When firms without a CSR strategy grow, we often see a mish-mosh of diverse activities accumulate under a broad umbrella of CSR. Having too many “pet projects” that reflect the personal interests of individuals can become counterproductive, generating noise and opportunity that is short lived. When initiatives originate from the bottom up, CSR can become unaligned and disconnected from the firm’s core guiding principles.
Identifying opportunities that will contribute to a shared value is not easy. Tight budgets, limited resources and diverse motivations make CSR a challenge for most accounting firms. To help keep CSR activities aligned and logical, we recommend firms adopt a top-down approach. Start by identifying an individual or a committee responsible for the firms CSR strategy. A dedicated officer or team will prevent CSR initiatives from de-railing.
If you need assistance developing or revamping your CSR strategy, call us today.