Corporate social responsibility, sometimes referred to as CSR or Corporate Citizenship, is a business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. Corporations self-regulate this business model and by practicing corporate social responsibility, companies can have a positive impact on their community, their employees and their stakeholders. Ben Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing in Illinois led a discussion for USA Manufacturing Hour Chat on Twitter about Corporate Social responsibility and how it can have an impact.
Who the Stakeholders Are
The chat kicked off with a discussion about what stakeholders are in any business. Participants were asked to contribute who some of the stakeholders are where they work.
Kati McDermith from Industry Net in Illinois inquired, “Are Stakeholders anyone who is directly affected or has interest in the company? I think I am stakeholder (maybe)?”
Julie Basello from Radwell International in New Jersey said, “Stakeholders are other companies or people who have a vested interest in a company's outcome or results.”
MFG Talk Radio said, “I’m not too sure, but I’m very interested in learning more about this topic.”
Host Ben Nordman said, “That's why we're all here.” He added, “If you think about it, we're all stakeholders in a broad sense to a whole lot of companies.”
John Buglino of Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “Anyone that works for or has a vested interest in your company are your stakeholders. The employees & board of directors.”
Host Ben Nordman said, “Vested and interest are the buzz words here! Great job.”
Greg Mischio from Winbound in Wisconsin said, “Customers. Internal and external.”
JD from Cleveland Deburring Machine Company in Ohio said, “The owners and employees of the company.”
Nigel T. Packer of PelaTis Online in Wales, UK said, “A stakeholder is anyone who a business affects from employees to people living on the road that leads to the entrance. The local school and the university, the suppliers and the buyers, the investors and the retired.”
Rebecca Prox from DSI/Dynamatic in Wisconsin said, “Stakeholders are people that have an interest in our company - employees, customers, business partners, etc.”
Sue Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing Inc in Illinois said, “Anyone with a vested interest. This would include the local community, employees, owners, customers, vendors and even the environment.”
Val from Monofrax in New York said, “Our mission statement includes all of our stakeholders. Expanding the limits of possibility for our people, our customers and our community.”
Sam Gupta from ElevatIQ in Canada said, “Stakeholder is anyone and everyone that gets impacted or can impact your business model including employees, customers, partners, communities, etc. For us, our employees, influencers, partners, and obviously our customer partners are major stakeholders.”
Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “Owners, board members, employees, community, suppliers, customers, competitors, interest groups.”
Host Ben Nordman said, “Yes! Right on the money. In a broad sense, we're all stakeholders of many different companies.” He added, “Stakeholders are anyone that has a vested interest in a business. This includes any employee, local community member or government, customers/vendors, competitors, etc.”
The Definition of Corporate Social Responsibility
The discussion turned to how “Corporate Social Responsibility” is defined. Participants had opinions.
Buglino said, “How members of your organization interact with and represent the company outside of the 4 walls of the office.”
Michael Womack from NJMEP in New Jersey said, “We see Corporate Social Responsibility fall into two categories: 1-our mission is to help our manufacturers. When MFG benefits, local communities gain! And 2-charitable giving and initiatives like 'Manufacturing Cares' allow NJMEP to give back in more ways.”
Prox said, “Our corporate social responsibility is how we brand ourselves to the community. Are we doing service within the community? Are we making donations? Are we helping others?”
Sue Nordman said, “The practice of a corporation, regardless of size, to conduct business ethically with everything and everyone it touches.”
Rusine said, “It is a company's obligation to make a positive impact on society beyond their normal business practices. It can be social and environmental.”
Paul Kiesche from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “I would say, it's the company's responsibility to act ethical, moral and do right by their employees, customers, environment, community, industry, students, etc.”
Dana Engelbert from Mississippi said, “The impact a company has on those stakeholders.”
Mischio said, “How about defining corporate social responsibility as not blatantly ignoring the fact that you're harming someone? I think if we could all at least start there, the world might be a better place.”
Gupta said, “Holding yourself accountable for the success of your customers, partners, employees, economy, and environment. Really mean your services, not just for the sake of selling.”
MFG Talk Radio said, “Context clues would lead me to believe it's any company's role in taking on projects outside of what they typically produce. Like volunteer work or donations. I could be completely wrong though.”
McDermith said, “The ways a company proves that they care about impact on the general public.”
FreightPOP in California said, “It's when a company goes above and beyond to conduct ethical business practices and bring positive change to their community and society as a whole.”
Packer said, “CSR is going beyond the profit in monetary terms and gaining profit by the way we support the community around our businesses. The people we affect in our growth and development. Like a family looking out for each other.”
Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc in Missouri said, “I think in my opinion, that being corporately responsible is to ensure your company makes efforts beyond just profit making to benefit the community. This can be done through jobs, paying taxes, volunteering and helping people. That's my guess.”
Host Ben Nordman said, “The definition of Corporate Social Responsibility is making company decisions based on the improvement of the community of stakeholders of the company. This could be contributing to societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature, supporting volunteering, or ethically oriented business practices.”
Improving the Community of Stakeholders
The group then discussed some examples of things that could improve the community of said stakeholders.
Prox said, “Engage with them - information sessions, charitable donations, volunteering. Identify what their pain points are in the community and help with those in any way you can.”
Sue Nordman said, “Group community service projects by employees. Recycling waste at your facility. Conducting business with a high level of integrity.”
Kiesche said, “Listen.”
Host Ben Nordman replied, “A verb that not many people know how to do well..... Great answer!"
Engelbert said, “Here's why this is so key. Jumping in to do things you think are helpful may actually be unintentionally harmful. Listen to what your stakeholders NEED and do that.”
She added, “You can improve your community by Supporting STEM education programs in middle schools, improving conditions of your facility to reduce impact on nearby neighborhoods, providing team members with time off to volunteer, etc.
McDermith said, “I have a customer (more like family now) that is always joining in community events and volunteering. I just love all their stewardship (B&F Fasteners, in case you were wondering).” She added, “Spending time and even money supporting and participating in community events is a great way to improve your community of stakeholders.”
Buglino said, “Encourage them to share and promote what is happening in the company. What might be routine or mundane to you can have a larger impact on those around us.”
Rusine said, “Just a few that comes to mind: Anything against any form of discrimination (women, race, etc), Green policy to decrease carbon footprint, Supporting health/literacy programs, and Business ethics (internal and external).”
Gupta said, “We have created our community for the sole purpose of serving every stakeholder around us in educating them, to master the art of technology adoption, how to grow, and how to be a better community leader.”
Gail Robertson of Gail Now in Canada said, “A wise former boss said it is not about giving back to the community but it is about building a better community to grow your business and to encourage people to stay in your community beyond even your workplace.
Host Ben Nordman said, “Examples of things that could improve stakeholder communities could be contributing to societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature, supporting volunteering, or ethically oriented business practices.”
Responsibility for a CSR Plan
The next topic of discussion was about CSR plans. The question was posed: if companies have a CSR plan in place, who is responsible for it or who should be responsible for it? Participants weighed in.
Buglino said, “Everyone plays a part in a CSR. Typically there is a committee of members or one REALLY motivated individual taking it on.”
Gupta said, “We don't have a dedicated team and I don't believe we will have any time soon. But everyone in the organization should be accountable for CSR and must be part of the core values of the organization “
Prox said, “CSR lands on me - the marketing manager. I think the responsibility fits with relation to our company.”
Sue Nordman said, “We are just beginning putting these practices in writing & developing a plan. Ideally it would a team of employees from a few different areas of our company so that we had a well-rounded approach to it.”
Rusine said, “Depends on the size of the company. I think a CSR policy should be implemented as a company-wide project, as opposed to a departmental one, and is overseen by the board of directors. For small companies, it is the owners’.”
McDermith said, “I love when Marketing gets involved in these things.”
MFG Talk Radio said, “I believe that impactful CSR plans would probably come directly from the top and would certainly be the most meaningful. Also having a community outreach manger may help a company stay in touch with its stakeholders so they can plan events accordingly.
Host Ben Nordman said, “The marketing and communication teams oversee CSR at our company. Typically, some combination of that and, for larger companies, senior management or a board of directors oversee CSR objectives.”
Outward Focused Initiatives or Inward Focused Initiatives (or Both)
The chat participants then discussed if corporate social responsibility should only involve outward focused initiatives. Participants had a lot to say.
Sue Nordman said, “I don’t believe it does. If you’re going to do business with a high level of integrity, that needs to be across the board from the way you treat your employees to the way you provide discount pricing to many other areas.”
Buglino said, “No, internally you need to take care for your employees (stakeholders).”
Gupta said, “CSR is not meant to be an external marketing play. Everyone has to really mean it for the long-term sustainability of the org and creating the right culture. If the CEO doesn't mean it, what are the odds that employees will. Also don't go overboard with it either.”
Rusine said, “I don’t think so. The way I see it, what you do outside is just an extension of what you are doing inside how you practice your business, and how you take care of your employees, etc. You can’t sustain a CSR if your “house” is broken.”
FreightPOP said, “CSR can absolutely be internal! A couple examples are paying employees fair wages and making safety a top priority in the workplace!”
McDermith said, “I really liked when I worked for a call center where we could donate PTO as well as every Friday we paid $1 to wear jeans and that money would go to support an employee /family that was in need
Kiesche said, “CSR should consider both external and internal. It's a bit hypocritical otherwise. Improving internal and external both help the company and help those that the company affects.”
Prox said, “This has to work externally AND internally. If you don't practice what you preach, then your brand suffers. We uphold our brand internally by supporting one another in many different ways.”
Host Ben Nordman said, “No, as discussed before, Corporate Social Responsibility involves ALL stakeholders, including your employees. How a company treats their own employees can speak louder about the CSR of a company than anything else. An example of this is parental leave, vacation time, etc. to promote a good work/life balance for employees. It could also include an internal example of only working with other companies that engage in ethical business practices.”
Outcomes of a CSR Program
Participants were then asked what they think the outcomes of a CSR program are or should be. There were definite opinions on this point.
Kiesche said, “Trust, Happiness, Better Quality of Life, Better Community, Thriving Business, Improved industry.”
Prox said, “One outcome is brand recognition. The community you exist in should know your name.”
MFG Talk Radio said, “Ultimately you want your company to be a source of pride for all of your stakeholders. When they think of you they should not just think about your product, but what you provide beyond that to the community you serve. Giving back is its own reward.”
Rusine said, “The idea is that employees will be more productive, loyal, and engaged if their employer engages in CSR. I found this study too. A study on SME doing CSR.”
Head to the link to read about the study
Sue Nordman said, “I have a quote that is in my office that says, “I expect more from you because I expect more for you.” I hope that inspires my employees to do better so we can all be better together. “
Gupta said, “Have KPIs aligned with core business values. How many jobs have you created? How many families have you helped? How many businesses have you supported with a simple message like this? You don't have to be Mother Teresa. You can start by helping people around you.”
Host Ben Nordman answered, “Public trust, sustainability, brand improvement, community involvement, recruitment, happier employees, bottom line.” He added, “Recruitment is becoming an important aspect of CSR. According to a study done by Deloitte, 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zs say they make choices on where they work based on personal ethics, with 15% surveyed leaving their jobs due to it.”
Obligation to Be Socially Conscious
The discussion wrapped up with an important question. Participants were asked their thoughts about whether or not corporations have an obligation to be socially conscious. There were many opinions.
Sue Nordman said, “Yes, I do. I think self-awareness applies to all including businesses. They need to look at the ripple effect that they cause in society & make sure it’s a positive one. There’s always a chance to make things better.”
Rusine said, “Frankly, I believe that everyone has an obligation to the society to make the world a better place. For owners, it should carry over to the QUALITY of life of employees. For employees, if your company does not do it, do it on your own. You don’t need CSR.”
Prox said, “Morally, yes. As I mentioned earlier, if we don't practice what we preach, then our brand suffers. I am now setting up our "Tis The Season For Giving" campaign. We'll be making donations to the local animal shelter.”
Gupta said, “Well everything is driven by corps and money, so if corps don't, who will? Hold your politicians accountable when you donate. Hold everyone around you accountable and recognize if someone is going out of their way to help the community around your core values.”
Packer said, “Business is about people. The people of the business and the customers of the business. There are also those who supply the business and those who are affected by the business. People are society, Organizations have an obligation.”
Host Ben Nordman answered, “At a basic level, yes, there is a responsibility for a company to engage in socially conscious practices. This could be engaging in ethical business practices or treating employees with their interests in mind as well.”
Corporate social responsibility is an important part of how a company is perceived in today’s world marketplace. Companies that hold themselves accountable to a higher standard will be the most successful at a corporate social responsibility business model. By promoting the right balance between company needs and the needs of employees, stakeholders and the community, socially responsible corporations can effect great change as well as positively impact the world around them.
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