With Gen Z demanding social responsibility and the pandemic continuing to impact purchase decisions, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can no longer be a satellite strategy for appeasing certain stakeholders within a company. CSR must be integrated throughout an entire organization. Unfortunately, small businesses may face several challenges when it comes to integration since many are used to relegating CSR initiatives to one department.
Thankfully, there are several proven strategies available to help small business C-suite executives better integrate CSR across all departments and divisions. First, let’s talk through the generation that is most concerned with corporate responsibility to better understand why CSR integration is so important in 2023.
Spending Habits of Gen Z Consumers
When it comes to online shopping, Gen Z consumers were raised on the internet and generally spend a significant amount of time using mobile devices to browse the web, connect with friends, and influence others. This generation has extremely high expectations for security, appearance, and functionality when it comes to online shopping.
The majority of Gen Z shoppers are willing to spend around 10% more for products that are sustainable. This is due to the fact that 75% of Gen Z consumers believe sustainability is far more important than a brand name. And that’s a significant development, as Gen Z consumers have an estimated spending power of nearly $323 billion — which means that their consumption habits should be taken into great consideration by companies when it comes to implementing CSR.
Gen Z shoppers care about making responsible choices and feel good about supporting brands that align with their own personal values. When it comes to social responsibility, they truly believe that every effort counts. Many young people today are rightly concerned about the environment and want to know that the companies they support are doing their part to reduce their negative impact on the planet.
They are also interested in championing local businesses or charities that align with their values. Gen Z appreciates companies that are honest and transparent about where their products come from and how they are made.
Challenges of Integrating CSR
The main hurdle when it comes to integrating CSR throughout a business is that it can be difficult to get all departments and employees on board with an initiative. As such, it is important to communicate the importance of CSR to all employees and explain how it can benefit the company as a whole. Additionally, department heads and managers should be supportive of CSR initiatives and create opportunities for employees to get involved. Involvement is a surefire way to increase engagement.
Many companies find it incredibly difficult to implement CSR across the entire business rather than focusing on one individual department or person. Some of the challenges companies face include:
Demand for Transparency and Disclosure
Today’s business environment requires a more holistic approach to CSR that takes into account the company’s entire value chain. This includes everything from how products are sourced and manufactured to how they are marketed and sold. It also includes how the company treats its employees, handles customer complaints, and manages its impact on the environment.
Pressure From Investors
Investors are increasingly likely to back companies with strong corporate responsibility, as well as social and environmental sustainability. In order to monitor and evaluate companies’ sustainability reports for completeness and veracity, they rely on resources like the Global Reporting Initiative.
Corporate Culture and Differing Priorities
It is crucial that companies are able to present a united front. It can be incredibly challenging for businesses to get everyone on board, especially when different units prioritize different tasks and goals. Even though priorities may align with the bottom-line goals of the company, they may not be actual CSR initiatives.
Connecting CSR to Profitability and Value Chain
When organizations engage in CSR activities, they can gain both hard values (such as cost savings using the cloud) and soft values (like attracting skilled employees by implementing quality-of-life perks for workers).
Finally, many business owners believe that there is no need to fix something if it isn’t broken. But in business, the only certainty is uncertainty. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the world quickly discovered that what works today may not work tomorrow. It is imperative that your company has a CSR plan that addresses current hot-button issues as well as future anticipated challenges.
Best Strategies for Implementing CSR
When it comes to implementing a CSR strategy throughout your entire company, there are various strategies that may work. Those include:
1. Communicate how important CSR is to the entire organization
In order to promote CSR throughout the business, C-suite executives should clearly communicate the benefits of CSR to all employees and explain how these efforts align with the overall goals and values of the company.
2. Implement CSR as part of the company’s strategy
By weaving CSR into the company’s overall strategy and decision-making processes, C-suite executives can ensure that CSR is prioritized appropriately and given the same level of attention
3. Involve employees throughout the process
C-suite executives can capitalize on the strong sense of community and teamwork that small businesses often have when tapping into the thoughts and ideas of colleagues and coworkers.
Over the years, we have witnessed many companies successfully integrate CSR efforts into their business. For example, outdoor clothing company Patagonia started a Sustainable Apparel Coalition to promote an industry that “produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.” To date, there are now 49 members in the coalition. Not for nothing, Patagonia also invests heavily in projects for the environment and advocacy efforts.
Corporate social responsibility is an important part of the 21st-century workplace that can no longer be ignored. For businesses targeting Gen Z, it is essential to inject CSR throughout their entire business. When you take a stand for meaningful causes, Gen Z customers will view your business not just as a company selling products, but also as a dedicated change agent they can put their full support (and dollars) behind.