In a world where, from the outside many companies make the same claims, CSR can be a differentiator with employees, prospective employees and clients.

While much has been made of Generation Y’s preference for employers who do more than simply generate money, CSR programmes influence a far wider audience.

Why does CSR matter?

All other things being equal it is human nature to favour those who do the right thing by others as we believe they are more likely to do the right thing by us. A CSR programme shows a company that cares about the world beyond its four walls, a good indicator that it is likely to care about it clients and employees building trust with everyone engaged with the business.

Building a successful CSR programme

1.     Allocate resources to your CSR programme – commit time and potentially money to the cause.

2.     Choose your charity – find a charity that both has values aligned with yours and offers the opportunity for the team to get involved with the cause beyond simply opening cheque books. Asking your team for their nominations can be a great way to get the whole business behind the initiative.

3.     Publicise an events programme – work with the charity to put in place a programme of events to get your team (and potentially your clients) engaged with the charity. It will also be of interest to anyone who checks the ‘News & events’ section on your website.

4.     Lead from the front – if you’re encouraging the team to support the initiative, make sure you are visibly leading by example.

5.     Use it for business development – what you are doing for a specific charity and why can be a great way to engage clients and prospective employees. As well as sharing photos on your social feeds, get employees discussing it with stakeholders.

6.     Set targets – setting the business a fundraising target will help keep the team engaged and show the outside world the depth of your commitment. 

Alex Arnot is non-executive advisor to more than 20 SMEs.