The Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Retail
Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is becoming increasingly important in the world of business and retail. Tasked with making organizations more socially responsible or environmentally friendly, corporate social responsibility is a model that benefits not only the company, but also its employees and the community as a whole.
The Basics of CSR
At its most basic, the idea behind corporate social responsibility is to invest in a community in order to offset any negative effects the organization may have. For example, an organization that had to cut down an acre of woodland to build its offices may invest in green technology or send employees out to regularly volunteer at neighborhood tree plantings. While philanthropy and volunteering are two staples of CSR, they aren't its sole mission. Beyond this simple approach, some businesses have taken to hiring a CSR manager to overhaul its image and produce a win-win-win for people, the environment and the company's bottom line.
A History Lesson
The idea behind CSR began in 1960 with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development convention, encouraging businesses to pursue environmentally friendly economic growth and sustainable practices. In 1970, the term "corporate social responsibility" came into popular use and was a key issue at the 1972 United Nations Conference in Stockholm. From there, the practice developed over the years into what it is today -- a natural inclination for businesses to "do right" by its customers, its employees and the environment.
So how does adopting a practice of corporate social responsibility meet the "triple bottom line" shown above? In many mutually beneficial ways. First, fostering relationships and supporting the community through philanthropy not only keeps your constituents happy and healthy, but also shows that your business is dedicated to those it serves. Second, taking an eco-friendly stance will lessen the organization's carbon footprint and improve its public image while benefiting the community. Finally, involving employees in CSR events such as group volunteering brings them together as a team and improves their wellness as a whole. By making small, socially responsible changes to your organizational structure, you can reduce employee turnover, improve the environment and rally the support of consumers.
Example of Socially Responsible Corporations
Many businesses and organizations, particularly those in the retail industry, have taken the idea of CSR to heart. One notable corporation, VF Corp, has a strong policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and producing responsible and sustainable products. For example, all of the company's contract suppliers must be audited to ensure all facilities meet VF Corp's safety and health standards per its Global Compliance Program, a set of guidelines and programs that ensure all individuals contributing to the organization are treated fairly.
The company also keeps employees healthy and engaged with workplace wellness and community improvement programming. In 2010 it rolled out Be Fit for Life, a wellness program that provides associates with resources to lead a healthy lifestyle, like disease management coaching and tobacco cessation support.
To further demonstrate its commitment to CSR, VF Corp started producing annual Sustainability & Responsibility reports in 2014 that outline the company's actions, strategies and goals in three focus areas – planet, products and people.
Adopting a program – or at least a mindset – of CSR at your business is a wise move considering today's retail climate. In an age where consumers expect transparency and value sustainable business practices, following a corporate social responsibility plan can significantly increase brand loyalty, leading to long-term growth and success for retailers.