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Posted 6 March 2020 by
Joris Sepelie
Supply Chain & Operations Professional

How to embed a CSR-initiative in your company’s DNA?

Last year, we wrote about starting our inside-out corporate social responsibility initiative at Bluecrux and the first activities (and results!). Now, one year down the line, we take the opportunity to reflect on last year’s trajectory and look ahead to what is next.

Because we what?

We, six beecees, started our initiative (“Because We Care” or “BCWC”) out of the belief that, as a company, our responsibility is more extensive than just to our shareholders and customers, but also extends to our workforce, the environment and the communities we work and live in. The mission we defined was to “Develop a Bluecrux that actively recognizes its responsibility toward its workforce, in society and toward the environment, and aims to leverage its impact to inspire others.” In other words, we wanted to ensure that this feeling of responsibility really became part of our company’s DNA (which is why we added “actively” in the mission statement, it’s not just about being aware of our responsibility).

Yet, putting that mission statement into practice is an entirely different challenge. While we are our own’s toughest critics and our ambitions reach much further, it seems our little BCWC team, somewhat quietly, succeeded in embedding the “BCWC mindset” in our company over the course of last year.

Why do I make that statement, you ask? Here are some examples:

  • Nearly every conversation surrounding travel, company activities or purchases, reaches a point where someone will ask, “Is that in line with BCWC?” or “What will the BCWC team say?” While often said jokingly, it does show that our message is in the back of everyone’s mind. (Thank you, Greta Thunberg, for putting the message into the media spotlight as well the past year.)
  • Our company’s yearly activities were in some way related to the BCWC initiative without our active involvement or request. As an example: instead of giving gifts to colleagues at our Christmas party, we all had to bring a children’s gift to donate to children in need in the city where our event was taking place. Great initiative, and it truly made us proud that this came together without our formal request or input!

Because we have principles

So yes, we’ve experienced some successful first steps and are eager to go to the next level. But first, let us share our humble view on how to establish a successful CSR initiative in your company’s DNA:

1. Start it for the right reasons:

Don’t start an initiative just because everyone else is doing it or because it’s the right thing to do. If your colleagues don’t support it, it will never become a part of your company culture, mission, and values.

2. Inspire from the bottom up:

These types of initiatives will not survive if they are pushed down by the top management. To make these types of initiatives a sustainable part of your company, it needs to be supported by people at all levels in your organization (with even the reverse possible: to push it to the top).

3. Get management buy-in:

It might sound a bit contrary to the previous principle, but you need time and money, plus some company-wide decision power, to be able to make impactful long-lasting changes. Convince your management of your case in a language they value and listen to. Give them facts (e.g., corporate social responsibility is a significant element for employer branding and employee attraction and retention among young professionals!*) and don’t just speak to their conscience. More importantly, don’t ask for the entire world at once, but break your no-doubt-ambitious plans into bite-size chunks to show a step-by-step approach.

4. Make it fun & easy (& applicable): 

Focus on changes or actions that require little effort from your colleagues and bring them enjoyment. Use the context of each activity as an opportunity to share knowledge, but also collect feedback on how your colleagues perceive your initiatives. Don’t emphasize the big picture, which is in the news enough as it is; instead, mention tips and tricks that apply to everyday life. This will enforce the feeling that everyone can help.

5. Leave a man behind: 

Potentially another contrary statement, but CSR is a subject that touches a wide variety of areas. Don’t expect every colleague to be on board and engaged for every (or any) part. As with all things in life, it’s impossible to please everyone. You will experience all types of engagement and involvement from your colleagues. Don’t let it stop you or take your motivation away. Continue to engage with the entire company community.

6. Leverage, leverage, leverage & tailor: 

There is a massive amount of resources and information out there already: leverage it. Look for frameworks you can follow (the UN Sustainable Development Goals being quite exhaustive) and make use of theme days or weeks (international or local) to plan your actions around. If your company has offices on business campuses, look for opportunities to collaborate with other companies or participate in their events.

7. Make it visible and be proud:

You and your colleagues are making efforts. Don’t be afraid to show it, inside and outside your company. That doesn’t mean taking part in the popular “greenwashing,” but be proud of the impact your company is having, however small. You are not sticking with the status quo, and that is the first important victory. Be authentic about it, and, especially at first, don’t focus on numbers. Instead, show the mindset change you are creating.

8. Keep looking ahead and be ambitious: 

Lastly, be aware that a CSR initiative never ends. It needs to keep evolving. Take enough time to set up longer-term goals and a roadmap on how to get there. Grow your ambitions in time as CSR becomes more a part of your company’s DNA. Goals that might have seemed almost utopian in year one might be within reach by year three.

Because what’s next?

Finally, and this is quite essential, look back as well. Reviewing 2019 within our team, we spotted a lot of improvement points for ourselves and our initiative. However, we also took some time to list our achievements, and that made us realize we accomplished a lot more than we would’ve thought at the start of the year.

Based on this, we set out a roadmap for 2020 in which we dared to increase our ambitions. Goals we imagined taking another couple of years are coming in sight (e.g., taking steps to become carbon-neutral). Due to the positive feedback and engagement we have received from our colleagues, we feel empowered to increase our company’s efforts.

As we like to say at Bluecrux: “Think big, start small, scale fast.”

Because now it’s your turn!

We don’t want to pretend we are the frontiers of establishing CSR within a company or that we have found the holy grail for how to make it a success. Yet we do hope the above principles can help guide you in the right direction if you have been thinking of starting up a similar initiative.
Of course, we ourselves are always on the lookout to learn and improve, so get in touch if you want to discuss, share ideas or even just show us how far ahead of us you are!

In case you should have questions or just want to have a chat about this initiative, contact Joris Sepelie.