We have established what sustainability and CSR mean and the business case for taking a responsible approach, so now how do you go about it?
Even if your main driver for implementing CSR is compliance with a customer's requirements, CSR should not be limited to the basic compliance activities, e.g. having a policy, management system or certification in place. Those are outputs of a strong CSR approach, not an end in themselves. Management systems should always be a tool to accomplish the business' objectives, in this case avoiding negative impacts and contributing to society.
Following the below steps will help you to identify your sustainability superpower and design a CSR approach that is tailored to your business' impacts and objectives.
Step 1: Get clear on your objectives
First you must get clear on why CSR is important to your business. Looking at your business' purpose and values, environmental or social issues that are most important to you and your stakeholders, and existing CSR initiatives will help focus your efforts and establish a CSR purpose and vision.
Step 2: Assess your business' impacts and opportunities
Next you must identify what needs to be managed, by looking at the impacts and interactions your business has on the environment and society. This includes any harm your business may be causing, as well as opportunities to influence them, to make a positive difference to the environment or society.
Step 3: Prioritise CSR options and establish action plan
As a small business, it is critical to focus your limited resources to where they will make the most difference. Evaluating potential actions for cost (expense and effort) and benefit (to the environment, society and your business) will help prioritise them for importance and greatest impact. Start with the 'quick wins' to build momentum.
Step 4: Implement actions
While implementing your action plan, it is important to consider how to coordinate actions across the business, communicate CSR commitments to staff, stay up to date with issues and practices in CSR and celebrate achievements.
Step 5: Track and report performance
To confirm whether your CSR program is achieving your objectives, it is critical to set goals around your key areas of impact (negative or positive), collect data to measure your success, and report your performance internally and externally.
Step 6: Repeat
CSR is a constantly changing field, and therefore your strategy should be formally reviewed on a regular basis. Re-evaluate your areas of influence as you grow and develop, and whether new opportunities have emerged to achieve your goals.
If you follow these six steps, you will have a manageable set of actions to implement CSR in your business.
Ready to get started?
The Sustainability Strategy DIY Guide will guide you through the above steps to create a CSR Strategy, policy and action plan focused on your key opportunities and unique contribution.