How can companies improve their corporate social responsibility? | the ReFab Diaries

Corporate social responsibility is a way to run a business that focuses on helping the world instead of hurting it. It is also the responsibility a company has for the people, community, and environment where it is located. 

As more individuals focus on pivoting to follow a zero-waste lifestyle, companies have the opportunity to join this global movement. Many consumers are choosing who they do business with based on their corporate social responsibility and are prioritizing these brands. 



1.  Include it in your business strategy

The first step is to include corporate social responsibility in your business strategy. By aligning it with your overall plans and goals, you will find it easier to accomplish. For example, a supermarket chain can decide to donate food that is nearing its expiration date to homeless shelters or schools. A shipping company can decide to invest in marine preservation.

As you fill in business planning worksheets or growth strategy plans, consider how corporate social responsibility fits in. Who can you partner with to make it work? Are there local or national businesses doing similar work that you can learn from?  

2. Create a corporate social responsibility vertical in your business

You can create a team or a department that will be responsible for the company’s environmental and social strategies or initiatives. The team would work on corporate social responsibility ideas and share them with the rest of the company.

One option is to hire new staff with the right academic qualifications, usually this is a bachelor's in sustainability. They would have a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues and how they impact companies. Hiring people with this type of background may encourage current employees who are interested and available to work on new sustainability projects.

You may want to put together a committee of employees who are passionate about going green. Since you want this to be an ongoing project, the committee can meet regularly and plan events. This has the added benefit of engaging like-minded employees in an important initiative that also interests them. 



3. Source raw materials from sustainable suppliers

If you manufacture products, consider sourcing raw materials from sustainable suppliers. This may include using recycled materials or picking suppliers who have strong environmental strategies.

For example, if your company needs to source cacao beans for chocolate, then you can choose to get them from responsible farmers. If you need clams, then you can source seafood from sustainable clam and mussel farms.

Unilever is an example of a company that is trying to source sustainable soy oil by working with farmers to maintain soil health and water quality. They support farmers who use regenerative methods like planting cover crops. They are also committed to preventing habitat loss and deforestation. 



4.  Reduce your manufacturing’s impact on the environment

Manufacturing plants are notorious for contributing to air and water pollution. If you are in manufacturing, you need to find solutions to reduce toxic chemicals, gasses, emissions, and waste materials in your production processes.

Going green is not a fast or easy process. Your company will have to use energy more efficiently, increase recycling and conserve water. 



5.  Reduce your company’s carbon footprint

Your company’s carbon footprint will vary based on the industry you are in, but there are always ways to improve. Can you do bicycle deliveries for smaller items? Can you install renewable energy sources such as solar panels to power your office building?

From initiatives to reduce paper waste in the office to using energy-efficient lighting, there are different ways to make the business greener. One option may be to switch to paper-based packaging instead of plastics and ship in smaller boxes. Another idea may be to go paperless and encourage everyone to rely on digital communication in the office.


6. Train employees

You have to educate employees about why becoming a green business is important and the steps the company is taking to achieve this. You may need to hold separate training sessions or workshops to introduce employees to the plans.

Employees should feel like they are part of the process instead of only hearing about it at the end. You also want to include them by asking for their feedback and ideas. 



7.  Promote employee volunteering

Encourage your employees to get involved with corporate social responsibility initiatives by volunteering for different charities and communities. This has the added benefit of creating great team-building activities.

You may want to make a regular volunteering schedule for employees to join. Another idea is to set aside some hours every year to encourage volunteering among staff.

Many employees want their companies to have corporate social responsibility policies, so you probably will not have trouble finding people who want to be involved. Keep in mind that this is an ongoing effort and not a one-off project.

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