I just recently read a great publication and heard an equally compelling lecture on the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and adding value to your business. Everyone is familiar with it; corporations of any size should give back to the community they operate in, in one way or another. A great example of this is Chipotle’s initiative to support local family farms. I’ll touch on what they are doing a little later on.
Good business means participating in value adding actions. You should never expense dollars on something that will not add value, either directly or indirectly, to your company. When it comes to performing a social good, many companies feel a pressure from society and therefore create campaigns out of reaction. Their justification is image-based and in many cases does produce value, only on a shallow level and for a short-lived time span. Let me be clear that I am not dishing on campaigns that make an impact, it is something I am incredibly thankful for, but I am arguing that sustainable CSR needs to take a different strategy (key word: sustainable).
Take, for instance, Chipotle’s investments in local farms. This isn’t just a campaign to putChipotle in a good light with the public, but it bolsters small farms that grow fresh produce and in turn creates value adding relationships with these food chains. Chipotle has pledged to use 10 million pounds of local produce while initiating a marketing campaign to inform consumers of the “disappearing” small family farm. This not only helps these small farms (the social good), but it creates a sustainable relationship between business and supplier, gives Chipotle some camera time, and allows them to continue to cook great food using fresh ingredients (one of their competitive advantages).
A company cannot blindly place a finger down a list of social needs to choose what social good to participate in. They need find where a societal need and their business processes intersect, and invest the appropriate time and money there. This is sustainable CSR that 1) Benefits Society; 2) Adds Value to Business; 3) Creates a Positive Public Image. Now I could go on and on about motives, and why I think society needs businesses just as much as businesses need society, but we’ll save those for later. For now, align what you are passionate about and what your business does with a need that society has. CSR.