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What does Corporate Social Responsibility look like in 2021?

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Lizzie Tasker HR, Employers, Work Life...

The general concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is where businesses undertake actions to make a positive contribution, whether that is within the local community that they serve, further afield or even globally.

But in a world that is changing rapidly, particularly so over the last 18 months, there’s been a shift in not just how businesses approach CSR but also the issues that are being tackled.

Businesses practice CSR for a number of reasons - improved reputation, boost employee engagement, or perhaps a genuine desire to ‘do good’.  Certainly, the growing focus and investment on being a socially responsible operation is a testament to the power that consumers have. Businesses are feeling the pressure as consumer’s beliefs are influencing their buying habits more and more, looking for brands that best align with their own values.

ENVIRONMENT

Climate change is something that we’re all too aware of and, as individuals, are taking more responsibility for our impact on the environment.

Businesses large and small are taking note and recognising their wider responsibilities too. Whereas previous endeavours may have centered around mitigating any negative impact they might have; such as to offset carbon emissions, it’s now simply not enough in the eyes of many consumers.

Increased awareness of ‘greenwashing’, where organisations give the impression products or business processes are more environmentally friendly than they really are, has led to consumers demanding full transparency.

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

The Equality Act 2010 brought about changes and placed further legal obligations on businesses to not discriminate against those with certain protected characteristics. But it’s social change that has really brought this topic to the forefront of people’s awareness in more recent times. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted just how much work there is still to do, addressing racial injustice and inequality which is still so prevalent today.

Tackling gender inequality is another area that businesses are incorporating into their CSR strategy, not just within their own businesses, but their supply chain and the wider world.

It’s a given that businesses should be inclusive and ensure they comply with the law. It’s now about what real and tangible actions businesses take, and not just as a short-term response and most definitely not as a PR exercise.

SHOP LOCAL AND SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES

The pandemic and subsequent restrictions have been devastating for many small and independent businesses, particularly those in the retail and hospitality sectors.

Whilst some businesses may already make it their policy to try and utilise local suppliers where possible, some larger firms are taking it one step further to help give start-ups and small businesses a helping hand.

For example, American Express cardholders were offered a £5 incentive every time they spent £10 or more with a small business. Visa, Amazon, and Barclays also stepped up with funding or practical advice too.

VOLUNTEERING

The concept of businesses partnering with a charity is not a new one. Charities often rely on fundraising activities organised by businesses and this is still a popular form of CSR. 

What has become increasingly popular though is businesses allowing employees paid time away from their roles to volunteer with various good causes, even allowing employees to choose something that they're passionate about. The benefits are two-fold, not only does it benefit a good cause, but it can also lead to reduced staff turnover, improved morale, and the chance for staff to develop new skills.