Corporate Socially Responsibility: What’s the Big Deal?

Andrew Roby lauded for its community engagement program

Mar 29, 2011

An organized Corporate Social Responsibility program, or a community engagement program offered through a company, can be beneficial to both the company and the employees.

What is a community engagement program? It’s a conscientious plan to ensure that a business is active and engaged within the community where they work and live.

Why is this important?

Fortune Magazine picks its annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, and part of the criteria on which the business are judged include: credibility (communication to employees), respect (opportunities and benefits), fairness (compensation, diversity), and pride/camaraderie (philanthropy, celebrations). Employees who feel that their company is not credible or philanthropic might have low energy levels and lower morale. Their creative talents may be untapped in many areas. Workers may not know people they work with on a significant level. People may be counting down the time left until the weekend.

The overall success of a company and the happiness of its employees can be noticeably improved if it has a community engagement program. When you have a management team that empowers people to come up with projects or ideas to make a difference, then employees feel like they have a voice in many different projects, and that their business is part of a bigger solution for the unmet needs of the world around them. When you start getting involved in your community, you see your co-workers in another light outside of the office walls. It’s probably true for many of us that we spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our own families, and doing something beyond your normal job description with your co-workers shines new light on who they are outside the walls of your office, and builds your relationships with them.

There are many different ways that businesses can be socially responsible. Here are a few suggestions:

* Have a beneficiary if you recycle/donate used or out-of-date office supplies and equipment
* Set up a program for volunteering time
* Donate a percentage of profits to local charitable organizations
* Hold fundraisers or underwrite others’ fundraisers
* Mentor students/grads/unemployed
* Sponsor local athletic teams/ arts organizations/schools
* Create awareness for causes to your customers and clients

An office may be involved haphazardly in any one of these efforts, but wouldn’t it be amazing if each business made a concerted effort to form a cohesive policy? There are many ways to align your business with causes and endeavors. Some companies might want to have a strategic way of looking at what they do, an how their services, products, and expertise can best help benefit the community. For instance, if your company makes paper, then perhaps you can donate paper to your local school system. If you are a part of an accounting group, perhaps a non-profit needs pro-bono accounting help.

Trent Haston and the team at the construction business Andrew Roby, located in Charlotte NC, decided to sit down and come up with a community engagement program. “We decided that in order to be the company we wanted to be, we needed to hang our hat on something bigger. We asked ourselves: how do we take what we do with our skills, vendors, subcontractors, and customers, and get the biggest return for our resources and our time. We interviewed charities and asked them to make us a presentation about what they do and how we could help. One of the charities we invited was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because one of our 24-year-old workers had lymphoma. Since our company had a personal connection, we decided to go with LLS.” Last year, Trent’s team raised $40,000 for LLS, and Trent was named the corporate chairman of the walk. This led him to being recruited to serve on the local board of The Make-a-Wish Foundation. “Somebody stopped me the other day near a house we were building,” Trent reported. “He said: ‘I think you all are doing great work in the community.’ To hear that makes me appreciate how our philanthropy really brings value to our business.”

I had the pleasure of speaking to Keith Eades’ team at SPI last year during their annual sales meeting. I inspired them to start a program around corporate social responsibility and they really took it to heart. It has been so exciting in the past twelve months to see SPI launch their plan, get involved in the community through volunteering, and view the direct impact Keith and his entire SPI family are making in the city of Charlotte.

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