What distinguishes a successful corporate social responsibility program from an ordinary one is the degree to which CSR aligns with business strategies and constituent expectations. The challenge is, alignment is not static. Your business changes, and what your constituents care about and expect of you can evolve greatly over time.
For a CSR program to successfully stand the test of time, companies must commit to an ongoing review of their program’s effectiveness. A periodic evaluation should include the following:
- Strategic Alignment Assessment
- With Your Business — Continually review the synergies between your business interests and your CSR strategies. As your business evolves and changes (i.e., into new markets, expanded geography, etc.), be sure to examine its alignment with your CSR programs.
- With Your Constituents — Talk to your customers, vendors, strategic partners and other key constituents to understand their expectations of your company when it comes to CSR. And do it regularly, because their expectations change. Create feedback channels (i.e., website, social media) that enable constituent input on an ongoing basis. If possible, add a formal survey that creates a baseline from which you can measure any changes and gather further input. Lastly, don’t forget to include your customer-facing staff (i.e., sales team) in eliciting feedback.
- Review of Connectivity Between the Programs and the Purpose
Continually examine your CSR activities in the context of your overall strategy. Over time, resources can be misdirected into activities that are not in line with the overall strategy. Unchecked, this can dilute the overall effectiveness of your program and possibly reflect a lack of direction or focus.
- Audit CSR Communications’ Effectiveness
Most companies have several channels through which they communicate their CSR commitment, including website, social media, newsletter, annual reports and company presentations. Ideally, all channels should be periodically reviewed (for proficiency in disseminating CSR program messages) in the context of the following criteria:
- Clarity and consistency of message across channels
- Transparency and authenticity of communications (Is it too promotional?)
- Effectiveness in reaching specific audiences, including employees, customer, vendors, shareholders, etc.
- Freshness of content (i.e., How current is the information? When was it last updated?)