How to be a good corporate citizen
Every member of the community can choose to behave in an altruistic, respectful and empathetic way – and that includes businesses. This behaviour is known as corporate social responsibility, which essentially means ‘committed to doing the right thing’. When you operate in this way, yours will be a more attractive company to work for and to do business with.
Corporate social responsibility is all about achieving balance and thinking beyond your bottom line. Being a good corporate citizen means being guided by strong moral and ethical standards as you consider the needs of your company (and its shareholders) in parallel with those of your customers and the community – whilst always being aware of the environmental impact of your business operations.
Doing the right thing is the right thing to do for your company, because people like doing business with companies that care. This philosophy also strengthens employee engagement – and when your workforce is fully engaged, great things can happen.
Some of the best activities and events that go on around us are critical for the cultural and character development of our population – yet they often rely on financial support for survival. Getting behind causes that are beyond your local sports teams (as worthy as they are too) is not just an altruistic thing to do, but it may also provide occasions for client and staff entertainment and networking.
When considering sponsorship and other types of support, there are those opportunities that may provide a financial or ‘brand awareness’ return on investment, and others that are simply good for the community. Try to balance the two – and remember they can both be used to engage with and reward your staff.
In common with many individuals, some companies choose to allocate ‘giving’ budgets each year on a sector basis, such as education, poverty, sport, medical, cultural and environmental causes. It all contributes to achieving good balance and good citizenship.
On that same topic, many companies operate salary sacrifice schemes allowing employees to donate to charities in a tax-efficient way. Some of them also offer to match those donations.
You could appoint a committee to decide the charities to support each year and ask its members to consider a balance of sectors as above. Often, employees will have causes that are close to their hearts, adding an additional level of engagement.
This type of activity pulls employees together in support of a common cause – and can also provide your company with valuable PR opportunities.
Your organisation may be full of extraordinary talent that would benefit other organisations in need. It can be incredibly motivating for employees to get fully-paid time off work that benefits those less well off than them, and your business.
This could be anything from a day a month to help with a Landcare project, to providing a not-for-profit organisation with marketing services. Or even a trip working on an infrastructure project for a remote community – offered as a performance-related prize.
Some organisations ‘give something back’ by supporting employees who wish to serve in the part-time Army, Navy or Air Force Reserve. Quite often these Reservists will learn valuable practical and management skills they can apply to their full-time employment.
It is in all our interests that we invest in a sustainable future. A few simple actions such as these can make a huge collective difference:
For a well-balanced society in an ideal world, everyone would have access to economic opportunities, affordable housing, adequately paid jobs, good education and culture. Life will never be that simple, but that doesn’t stop us all striving for that ideal when making business decisions and through our interactions with the community.
Many enlightened companies recognise the benefits of having a workforce that reflects the rich multicultural diversity of Australia itself.
Diversity and equality make for a stronger company, as it can bring a unique blend of skills, strengths and knowledge to business operations.
It’s ok to be proud of your corporate social responsibility. Letting customers and the community know about your good deeds – through events and publicity – will not only be good for your business, but it will also inspire others to do the right thing too.
Becoming a good corporate citizen starts with a fine intention but relies on positive action. Many companies will already have adopted the above advice and more, but it’s an area that’s worth reviewing regularly as part of your general business plan.
This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.