Sustainable sustainability

I have been asked about what makes a good corporate sustainability or CSR programme.

I think it is one which is sustainable by the organisation. What do I mean by that? I mean it is one which can withstand the test of time. Ideally, in my opinion, one which will be followed through in the long term, but in the least, the medium term.

I think it’s important to be aware of the highly personal nature of charitable giving. Many organisations benefit from the pet passions of one or two key leaders in the business, only to see the projects shelved or abandoned once the leader leaves.

While it is absolutely key that you have influential stakeholders in the business acting as ambassadors for your programmes, it’s a huge shame when support does not extend after the ambassador has moved on.

A good programme is one that makes strategic sense, given the purpose, culture and values of the organisation. It is often these things that attract and retain employees of the organisation itself, interests that they have in common, so it will be the same with the CSR programme.

When you hear the CSR focus of a business, it’s a good thing if your response is immediately to feel that it makes sense and fits with the organisation’s story. This way, it has relevance and more chance of surviving and retaining the support of employees, after individual ambassadors move on and notwithstanding general turnover of employees. It is an easier sell, it takes less explaining and convincing to mobilise employees to get involved and act.

Volunteers love to feel their time has been well spent and it is particularly powerful when they have been able to use their particular skills to be part of a community solution. When choosing volunteering programmes, think of the specific skills your workforce have to offer and how they could best benefit local communities.

If you manage to establish a programme that fits with, or even helps to support the success of your business strategy, that’s when I believe you are achieve a win-win scenario and stand the chance to really embed your programmes. This certainly makes pitching for budget easier and frees up time for achieving impacts, instead of constantly having to justify programmes.

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