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The customer journey has changed and in some part at least corporate social responsibility can be blamed. For many consumers, their decision to purchase a given product or service is based on more than just whether they like it, for an increasing number it falls to the values that the company represents.

These are often articulated through a simple message, tag line or slogan however for some businesses this is just the start, with an increasing number of organisations choosing to reach out to their target audience, internal and external, through the third parties they support.

CSR is a practice that can positively influence your business, employees and customers; it is also now considered to be one of the most important factors when building a business strategy, as it creates the foundations that you can then build upon, delivering consistency and a solid structure that is based on tightly held beliefs and values.

What is CSR and why is it so important?

CSR is defined as: a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment in which it operates. It allows your company to give consumers a sense of personality and portrays the values and ethics you hold and strive to meet.

What benefits can a company get from CSR?

Showing you are a socially responsible company reinforces your brand values to your audience – it also shows that you are aware of what is going on around you and can also add value to the relationships that you have with consumers and prospects.

‘Word of mouth’ is one of the most valuable communications and with social media platforms offering everyone the opportunity to voice their opinions CSR gives you the chance to share positive news, which builds a picture of the company you work for. Better still, it often implies a credibility that can be difficult to achieve otherwise.

Brands can use this to their advantage by sharing their positive experiences and encouraging others to talk about them. This shows that the business maintains good ethics, while also taking opportunities to showcase that they put these thoughts into practice.

An interesting point is that many businesses feel uncomfortable about sharing the good work that they do however it isn’t wrong to ‘boast’ about a good deed, especially if it’s for a charity, as it will generate positive publicity and not just for you but for the organisation you are supporting.

How can I be socially responsible?

Being a socially responsible company and showing support to the community around you doesn’t always have to mean putting your hand in your pocket and donating a lump sum, although this is still a great way of showing you care. Giving back to the community can be done in many ways; you could donate time, man power, products and even knowledge. If you’re a business that is based near to a high school as an example you could give a talk to students about your experiences and share your knowledge with people who could benefit from getting an insight into your sector. You could also offer a number of work experience placements to the local college.

Making this activity more relevant to your business strategy, the objective could be to reinforce the opportunities within your industry in a bid to develop and encourage the next generation of experts within your chosen field.

A good way of really getting in to the thick of things is to donate a day of your time to help improve the local community centre, church, sports hall or any other area that is in need of improvement. Small gestures of recognition can create waves of respect from local people, which in turn can lead to positive reactions to the brand, business and its employees.

Third party support is often used as a team building exercise, getting everyone together to fulfil a useful task or to share their time and knowledge. Not only does this make those involved feel good but impacts positively on those that you choose to help.

By including CSR in your business strategy you are not only reinforcing that you are a responsible organisation but also that you put your values into practice to the benefit of others. The value that this then adds to the company you are working with is one thing, but the credibility it will bring to your brand and business may just surprise you.

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