Doing Good: Why CSR is Good for Your Start-up
Customers are always inclined to support socially responsible companies
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Corporate social responsibility — or the efforts of an organization to impact society positively — doesn’t have to be confined to corporations and large enterprises alone. Start-ups, even at their nascence, can build a culture around CSR.
“Being a responsible corporate citizen is a must for all businesses,” says Ken Lerona, a marketing and PR practitioner. “Otherwise you will encounter challenges from regulators, customers, and other stakeholders.” It’s also good for brands in general, relates Lerona, because customers are inclined to support socially responsible companies. “Be irresponsible and you will start to degrade your brand equity and market preference,” he says.
“With start-ups now, you’re not only selling a new business model nor just a product or service. You’re also selling your business values in tow,” shares Peachie Dioquino-Valera, climate reality leader for The Climate Reality Project and a former employee of Philippine media giant ABS-CBN’s Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation. “There are people who want to know more about your CSR than your product. This is why you must build a good reputation — an ethical one at that — from and for internal and external stakeholders to augment your branding and market value.”
How do you implement CSR in your start-up? Here are some tips:
1. When you’re literally just starting up, instill the spirit of sustainable development in your start-up’s core values.
Dioquino-Valera cites the famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as an example. “They started the business not only to provide yummy ice cream but also to provide an alternative that is just made of all-natural, free-range, and fair trade ingredients,” she explains. “They intensely integrated their principles and values into the corporate rules that they have. These are something every employee should follow.”
2. If you’re not liquid enough to create your CSR programs, look to NGOs, LGUs, and other social enterprises for potential partnerships.
One of the most advisable advocacies is the environment, says Dioquino-Valera, as “all businesses have their extensive use of land, natural resources, and the social aspect. Their care for the environment and human and employment rights only occurs when they have excursions or CSR activities, and this shouldn’t just be for show.”
Environment-related CSR can be ingrained in company practices. “Start-ups should observe conservation of water, electricity, paper, food, etc., limit use of single-use plastics, give priority to employee happiness and welfare, etc.,” says Dioquino-Valera. If external stakeholders and investors discover that start-ups don’t really practice this within the company, a loss of trust happens. “And that shouldn’t be taken lightly because there will be another start-up like you that they can support or back up. Moreover, you get a bad PR now and could be getting flak for the next decade or so.”
Lerona also believes that one can do social empowerment for livelihood by working with the communities around the start-up. “Source your materials locally,” he says. “Work with communities around you. This will help you build good relationships with them while lowering your materials’ costs.”
3. Use your core strength, and share it with others.
Lerona believes that each start-up has its own unique opportunity to demonstrate social responsibility. Since a start-up can be strapped for funds, Lerona says this is a great way of integrating the CSR into what that start-up specializes in. “If you’re a tech start-up, you may reach out to students in your sector,” he says. “Teach them, expose them to real-world practices. This gives you the chance not only to help but to source potential high performing talents in the future.”