Good For Business: How charitable acts can make your business happier, healthier & more profitable25 NOV
When you hear the phrase ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, what does it bring to mind? If you’re feeling cynical, probably some big corporation throwing some cash to a nice charity, artfully distracting the public while they dump a few tonnes of chemical waste into the sea.
But, CSR isn’t just ‘greenwashing’. Companies, big and small, are working hard to do real good, for their business, local community and for the world.
If your business doesn't have a genuine CSR strategy, you could be missing out in more ways than you may have anticipated...
CSR: Not just for big business
Consumers are increasingly conscious of the effects of their purchasing decisions on the world around them. More and more of us are investing greater care and attention in selecting where we chose to spend our money. There is growing concern over products or services which damage the environment, inflict unnecessary suffering on animals or exploit workers. With this trend towards ‘ethical consumerism’, if a business wants to remain sustainable, they need to make a genuine commitment to responsible business practises.
This doesn't just mean the big guys. Customers are looking for businesses that they can feel good about spending their money with. If you can’t compete on that ‘feel good’ factor, many will go elsewhere.
So being a ‘good business’ is good for business. But there’s more to it than simply meeting a customer demand. Companies who fail to take CSR seriously miss out on some, perhaps unexpected, benefits.
What’s in it for me?
Now, I’m not saying you should be nice purely because it’s going to benefit you. However, it is useful (and, I think, rather interesting) to look at the positive impacts CSR has on your business . Particularly when you’re facing the whole "Oh, we’d love to but we just don’t have the time/money/manpower right now" argument.
Having a responsible product and supply chain is going to help your business look good. It can also, as we covered, help you attract and retain customers. Going one step further and actively doing good, however, will benefit your business in a number of ways. These include:
Tax relief on donations and the possibility of claiming back ‘secondment’ on any employees volunteering during working hours
Brilliant PR opportunities. People are always happy to give you some social media lovin’ when you’re supporting a good cause. Plus this sort of thing is local press’ bread and butter
But, I think most significant is the positive effects active engagement with charitable work has on your team.
“Charity is good for you,” says Science!
Businesses are increasingly anxious about Employee Engagement. Gone are the days when you join a company at 16 and leave, engraved pocket-watch in hand, at 65. Companies need to work harder to keep the employees they've invested time and money in training.
So, what makes people stay? Many brains bigger than mine have laboured over this question. The answer - it seems - is relatively obvious. The happier your team, the less likely they are to leave you.
Well, thanks Science.
What is less simple, is how to make your teams happier. Obviously, an employer can’t be held solely responsible for the happiness of their staff. What they are responsible for is creating an environment which is healthy and positive.
Happier people, incidentally, are also more productive workers, as this study by the University of Warwick concludes. So it quite literally pays to take this seriously.
Still unconvinced? I urge you to take a few minutes to watch this brilliant TED Talk from Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.
What makes a ‘happy workplace’. As this Forbes article by Josh Bersin explains...
Best Places to Work companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a 'soul' which makes work exciting and energizing
Bersin’s article goes on to various methods that studies have proven to make for happier workplaces. These include increasing trust in employees, resources, diversity and helping staff find meaning in their work.
This is where the whole ‘charity is good for you’ bit comes in. Happiness is booming industry and, as such, countless studies have been undertaken to come up with the formula for human happiness. In fact, you may have seen this ‘Happy Pie’ before...
According to the pie, 50% of an individual’s happiness is genetic. This has nothing to do with work at all and is essentially unchangeable. However, this means the remaining half can be influenced.
Employers can influence that circumstantial 10% by nurturing, what Bresin describes as a ‘more forgiving’ work environment. They can also go one step further. By offering the opportunity to get involved in corporate CSR activities, they can contribute towards the remaining 40% : ‘intentional activities’ - because charity work is one such intentional activity that can significantly improve happiness.
Studies show giving money to charity makes you happy. As happy, apparently, as eating chocolate or...um, ‘gettin’ lucky’.
Volunteering for a good cause has been shown to have a multitude of positive effects on the emotional and physical health of the volunteer. Volunteering not only gives you the buzz of doing good, but also gives those of us strapped to our desks all day the opportunity to be physically active and to make new social interactions. Regular volunteering has been shown to lessen depression and even extend life expectancy.
So, while giving undoubtedly is good, if you want your business and your teams to get the most out of your CSR efforts, don’t just give - do!
Good for the team
Another important factor in employee engagement is the quality of the relationships within your teams.
Businesses spend a lot on ‘team building’ activities to improve these relationships. Now, we’re not knocking taking time out together as a team . We love a good group outing and see first-hand how much good it does us as a company. However, there are few better ways to bond as a team than volunteering together. Also, unlike paintball, volunteering won’t cost you £20 a head and is less likely to result in unsightly bruising.
Summary: get the most out of CSR for your team
We have established two main points. First, that many customers want to spend their money with ‘responsible’ businesses. And second, that an active and inclusive CSR programme can add value to your business, as shown by this handy diagram...
But how to make sure your charitable efforts are not only benefiting the community, but your employees too? Here are a few suggestions:
Find a charity which offers plenty of opportunities for physical, practical volunteering and/or fundraising. While it’s great to give cash, simply donating from the company coffers doesn’t involve your people directly. It also follows that you will need to commit some company time to this on occasion. Don’t expect your employees to do it all in their evenings and weekends.
When choosing your charities, discuss what causes matter to the group. Ask employees to make suggestions and take votes. Encourage your team to mastermind their own fundraising activities and lead others in their implementation. If people feel empowered and included in the decision-making process, they will have a greater sense of ownership in future. This will help them to give more to, and get more from, your charitable efforts.
If your employees can use the skills honed at work for a good cause, this will help them find pride and greater meaning in their role.
Get stuck in
CSR shouldn't be top-down, imposed upon the workers by the bosses. Equally it shouldn't just be ‘pawned off’ on employees. Your charitable activities should serve as a great equaliser, with business leaders working alongside junior staff. Lead by example and commit yourself to CSR, not just your business.
Look at your CSR activities as an opportunity to do real good - in and outside your business. A genuine, inclusive and empowering CSR programme can improve employee engagement, retention and productivity.
Charity work can bring your teams closer together and help them find meaning in their roles. Moreover, it can make your business a better place to work. By creating a shared set of values and sense of purpose, you can create a happier and healthier environment for your people.
Because, in this age of waning employee loyalty, this is what the modern worker wants. More than perks or, arguably, even raises. Employees want to work somewhere that makes them feel good; a company with a ‘soul’.
brightfive are proud to support York Mind as our chosen charity. York Mind is a registered charity no 1006759. For more information about the work they do and how you or your company can get involved, visit www.yorkmind.org.uk, find them on facebook.com/MindYork or Twitter @TheYorkMind.