A company’s expected role in society is changing. As we better understand the true impact of business, both on the environment and humans, companies are called to take responsibility for their direct and indirect influence on the world.
It’s not an easy task. True corporate social responsibility requires deep actions that go beyond appearances. Companies must take a deep look at everything from their supply chain and raw material sources to how their products are being disposed of in order to ensure that their impact remains positive. This requires consistent attention and sometimes massive changes to current practices.
In order to take on such a lofty responsibility, you must be sure of its importance. Here’s why corporate social responsibility is so important and how you can start implementing CSR activities today.
What is corporate social responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is when a company takes responsibility for their social and environmental impact, both directly and indirectly. Companies practicing CSR work hard to ensure that their environmental footprint is as small as possible, and that the people impacted by their business—such as their employees, communities in which their factories are located, workers extracting raw materials that make up their products, etc.—are ethically treated.
While many countries have regulations in place to encourage companies to practice CSR, it’s largely self-regulating. Companies must decide the best ways to implement CSR strategies within their business models. This means that there is no exact science when it comes to CSR.
However, the flexible nature of CSR does not mean that there are no incorrect strategies. Successful CSR models must stay up-to-date with current social and environmental policies, they must keep all stakeholders in mind (which means that auditing of supply chains should occur), and they must make a meaningful impact; companies should not take shallow actions that only appear to make a difference.
Therefore, companies must constantly evaluate and update their CSR strategies in order to reap the benefits of such practices. In fact, large corporations have entire departments dedicated to the strategizing and implementation of CSR.
How much of an impact do companies actually have?
Although sustainability experts agree that all stakeholders—the primary three being individuals, businesses, and governments—need to take responsibility for their role in climate change and social issues, companies have the greatest impact on the environment, and so they bear the greatest responsibility.
This isn’t just a claim. For example, it was found that just 100 energy companies are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This shows just how much of an impact that companies have, and this statistic highlights only one industry. Many other industries contribute to the climate issue, too, suggesting a much bigger impact to the environment.
We also have to look beyond a company’s direct social and environmental impact. When we examine the environmental footprint of a single product, we must consider its impact throughout its entire life, from extraction of raw materials to disposal. When we think about it this way, we realize that a single company has much more of an impact than we may at first realize.
Companies have a lot of potential to do good. They provide income, they have the power to influence, and they can be the drivers of innovation and design. However, this same power means that companies can do a lot of bad as well. From an ethical perspective, it would seem that those who have the most power to effect change should do so in a way that results in positivity. However, it’s not just the morally right thing to do, but it’s also essential to your company’s growth and future success.
How corporate social responsibility makes a difference
CSR can make a huge positive difference both within the company and for those the company affects.
CSR projects show investors that your company offers a safe investment. A 2016 study by Aflac showed that 61% of investors were more likely to invest in a company practicing CSR because it showed that they are ethically sound and, therefore, less likely to be involved in risky behaviors like fraud.
It also makes companies more competitive to employees by showing that they care about their workers while providing a company culture that employees can be proud to be part of. A study about the millennial workforce showed that 64% of millennials won’t take a job if the company doesn’t display corporate responsibility, and 83% said that they would be more loyal to a company that “helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.” If your company wants to be considered by a competitive workforce, then CSR strategies need to take a priority.
Finally, corporate social responsibility shows your customers that you care, ultimately cultivating a more loyal customer base. Read more about how CSR contributes to customer loyalty here.
Beyond the opportunity for growth, CSR can have a huge positive impact on the environment and the people who are affected by that company’s actions. TOMS offers a great example of not only committing itself to CSR strategies, but adjusting their strategies when initial approaches prove to be problematic. Originally, they would donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold. This resulted in over 100 million shoes donated. However, when they received criticism from NGOs for this well-meaning CSR strategy, they pivoted to donate a profit of their portions to grassroots campaigns instead. This shows that it’s okay if you don’t get it exactly right the first time. Social and environmental standards change as we better understand our impact. The important part is being able to adjust when flaws in your strategies are brought forward.
Another great example of successful CSR strategizing is Levi Strauss. Since 1991, they’ve been committed to ensuring that workers in all areas along the supply chain are treated well. This includes ensuring the health and well-being of workers in their supply chains, regardless of whether or not they work directly within the company.
Because of the great impact that companies can have on the world, especially as they grow, they also have the greatest ability to enact positive change. Although it’s clear that taking social and environmental responsibility is important for the success of the business, it’s also morally correct for businesses to be better stewards of society and our planet.
Take responsibility and create impact with TONTOTON
Corporate social responsibility strategies must take into account social and environmental impacts from every step of a product’s life. This includes how the waste surrounding the product is managed.
Low-value, post-consumer plastic (what we call orphan plastic) accounts for some of the greatest sources of pollution. Not only is this type of plastic unable to be recycled, but it often ends up in poorly managed landfills or abandoned to nature resulting in the leakage of toxins that are dangerous to both humans and wildlife.
Partnering with TONTOTON allows your company to take responsibility for the orphan plastic surrounding your products. Ideally, your company’s orphan plastic footprint should be zero. However, implementing effective sustainability strategies takes time. Purchasing plastic credits through TONTOTON allows you to take a socially and environmentally responsible action today while strategizing future reduction of plastic waste in the future.
The projects funded through our certified plastic credit system benefit both the environment and the members of the communities in which we work. We’ve monetized orphan plastic—a type of plastic that, until now, has gone ignored by waste pickers—providing additional income to those who work with us while cleaning areas that are most vulnerable to mismanaged plastic waste. Our employees enjoy training, personal protective equipment, access to healthcare, and competitive wages, all of which were unavailable to them until now.
Once the plastic is collected, we send the plastic waste to be co-processed at cement factories. Using this process, the plastic is converted into energy and raw materials. As of now, it’s the cleanest and safest method to get rid of harmful plastic waste.
Implementing corporate social responsibility within your company isn’t something that will happen overnight. However, TONTOTON offers a way for your company to start taking responsibility now.