Continuing our discussion on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from the previous week, let’s explore two case studies, one from a recent Starfish Impact client, and another public example, to illustrate what CSR is and how Starfish has worked with companies in the past to increase or develop them as corporate citizens.
A recent client came to us with the situation that the principal and company had provided long time support of its community through checkbook gift making, often directed to specific nonprofits per clients as a part of business development. Our analysis of the situation was that the company had a scattered community support model, with a lack of meaning, focus, strategy, and engagement with the Owner/Founder, team and clients. As a result, the company had minimal community impact in addressing real issues/challenges as well as no story to tell internally or externally. Engagement was minimal and there was a fostering disappointment in community charitable commitment.
Our recommended solution included creating a strategy that delineated giving focus areas, goals of community involvement, business development, and employee engagement. We identified strategic nonprofit partners for long-term investment and relationship building in order to create greater impact for all. The implementation opportunity was realistic for the company and focused on a CSR Plan with five Giving Priority Areas and five correlated nonprofit partners. As a result, the Client has increased giving in the community, continued to grow its client base and team, retained and engaged team members, and felt the significance of its commitment. The company is on track to double its philanthropic giving for the next two years (reaching approximately $500K). And to significantly increase its other forms of community engagement laid out in the plan, achieving exponentially more impact as a result of the sum total.
Another case study is an interesting one we recently explored on Wal-Mart’s Sustainable Seafood, in which the company utilized it’s market dominance to shift the seafood industry. Through this initiative, Wal-Mart increased its efficiencies in the supply chain, its margins and product quality, decreased its environmental footprint, provided client differentiation, and positioned Wal-Mart as a market leader in the ‘green’ space as well as helped to combat ongoing reputation challenges.
The situation was such that Wal-Mart’s market for seafood was growing while at the same time the industry market for sustainable seafood was set to collapse in the coming years from over fishing. And as is, Wal-Mart execs were having supply issues. Supporting sustainably caught fish had a personal gain for Wal-Mart by resolving supply chain issues.
As part of the solution, Wal-Mart partnered with a third party certification program, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Doing so kept the responsibility of determining and maintaining standards off of Wal-Mart and instead on an organization that was better positioned to handle this role. Wal-Mart publicly committed to working only with MSC suppliers, and also gave current suppliers incentive to get up to speed with MSC certification which was previously an expensive and time consuming process with little incentive. This effectively changed the industry given Wal-Mart’s buying power. Certification provided Wal-Mart with great supply chain transparency, when stock often came from 5th order suppliers that were so down chain that Wal-Mart had little control of supply, quality and other factors.
As a result, transportation costs were decreased, quality increased, transaction costs decreased, and the environment was bettered. And nonprofit partners MSC and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), also involved in partnership, benefited, as they wouldn’t have had access to the type of marketing, reach, or attraction of potential partners without Wal-Mart involved. If interested in more details on the case, read – The Greening of Wal-Mart by the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Both of these case studies illustrate how CSR can take many shapes and represent one issue, to a multi tiered approach. There is no right or wrong way for a business to ‘do CSR’, but more than ever, aligning business goals, engaging stakeholders, and having leadership’s buy in are critical elements to a successful CSR strategy.
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