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Let’s Talk: How to develop a CSR strategy

Did you know that a robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy can not only enhance your brand image but also attract top talent and boost employee morale? 

In this week’s edition of Let’s Talk, our experts break down the key steps and considerations to build a CSR plan that aligns with your company’s values and makes a real impact.

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Jennifer McKennariey, Director, Certified Payroll Practitioners at Australian Workforce Compliance Council

Jennifer McKennariey
Jennifer McKennariey, Director, Certified Payroll Practitioners at Australian Workforce Compliance Council

“Developing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy means integrating economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic responsibilities into a company’s core values and operations, ensuring a genuine, measurable impact.

“Compliance and ethical practices are foundational. Regular audits and continuous training ensure adherence to labour laws and ethical standards. Promoting employee welfare through wellness programs, career development, and flexibility fosters a motivated workforce, enabling employees to contribute positively.

“Partnering with educational institutions for continuous learning, particularly in compliance and ethics, maintains high standards and encourages a culture of improvement. Diversity and inclusion policies ensure equal opportunities and promote an inclusive workplace.

“Clear reporting mechanisms that track and communicate CSR progress demonstrate commitment and provide tangible results to stakeholders, and build trust. Community engagement including supporting local businesses, creating jobs, and investing in community projects strengthen community ties. Volunteerism and corporate philanthropy amplifies a company’s positive impact.

“Implementing sustainable practices to reduce the carbon footprint through energy conservation and waste management is vital. Strong governance frameworks ensure CSR efforts are sustainable and resilient, setting a high bar for industry standards.

“In Australia, CSR connects strongly to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria, focusing on governance frameworks covering legal compliance, ethical practices, and stakeholder accountability. This approach ensures CSR strategies meet local regulatory standards and community expectations, integrating into every aspect of business for real, measurable impacts.”

Lee Stewart, Principal at ESG Strategy

Lee Stewart
Lee Stewart, Principal at ESG Strategy

“Making your business more sustainable can seem overwhelming – particularly for small businesses – it doesn’t need to be. As outlined in my upcoming book, How to Build Sustainability into your Business Strategy, the key to this is following the Triple C Framework for Sustainable Strategy:

  • Confidence: The first step in developing a ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) strategy is to consider the global and local sustainability issues. Trust your knowledge of the relevant issues, such as carbon emissions, waste, diversity, community, and consider your company’s impact on these areas and how you can enact positive change.  A key question I ask my clients is “If your business didn’t exist would the planet and society be better or worse?” Your answer may surprise you and this helps identify your unique ESG threat or opportunity.
  • Commitment: Focus on what matters the most to your business. This is done through materiality assessments and stakeholder engagement.  The next step is setting goals and developing your communication strategies and core values.
  • Consistency: Maintain relevance and consistency by integrating these changes into your daily operations.

“Breaking down the process into three easy steps can put your business on the fast-track to a meaningful and effective ESG strategy.”

Sharon Melamed, Managing Director at Matchboard

Sharon Melamed
Sharon Melamed, Managing Director at Matchboard

“I believe there’s an “internal” and “external” component to a CSR strategy. For internal, CSR entails having a transparent, ethical and accountable culture, with clearly defined values that are not only preached but practised by employees and role-modelled from the top down. External is about defining initiatives and partnerships to meet specified social responsibility goals. This is something that even a small business can do. In Matchboard’s case, we set a goal to give back via a “Small Business for Small Charities” program, whereby we provide pro bono marketing and fundraising for charities much in need of help. As long as you have a database or social media following – even if you don’t have the big bucks of large enterprise – you CAN make a difference! Our fundraising formula involves incentivising executives to attend our events with either a lunch voucher or a charity donation and about 30% select the charity option. This has  enabled us to raise tens of thousands of dollars.”

Martin Creighan, Vice President Asia-Pacific at Commvault

Martin Creighan
Martin Creighan, Vice President Asia-Pacific at Commvault

“A CSR strategy is not something to be taken lightly in this era. To have the trust of customers, partners, government bodies and the general public requires good stewardship, and must also align with business objectives, evolving markets and an always-shifting stakeholder landscape. It is imperative to consider factors such as market dynamics, regulatory frameworks and environmental realities when assessing what is most important to focus on, as well as maintaining a laser-focus on reporting in order to communicate with specific audiences.

“When considering aspects of the organisation such as its environmental footprint, employee wellbeing and ethics, corporate policies need to align with both the core business objectives and underlying governance. For example, consider how an anti-discrimination policy will have positive impacts on employee wellbeing, and how corporate bylaws can be adapted to focus on reducing the organisation’s environmental footprint.

“A CSR strategy should be the driver for a better, more inclusive and sustainable future – as well as having a positive impact on the business itself.”

Ali Lawes, Event Director at Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo

Ali Lawes
Ali Lawes, Event Director at Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo

“Sustainability is top of mind for most business leaders and should be a key part of your CSR strategy. Beyond the sustainability of your product or service, consider what can be done within the organisation. Incorporating a robust waste and recycling initiative is an excellent way to uphold environmental responsibility as a value of the company.

“Start by auditing the types and volumes of waste your office generates. Once you have this data, you can set specific, measurable goals for waste reduction and recycling.

“Engage your employees from the outset by forming a green team responsible for driving the initiative. Provide clear, accessible recycling bins, and label them appropriately to avoid contamination. Regularly share up-to-date resources on the waste and recycling initiatives and policies in your area.

“Partnering with local recycling facilities and waste management companies can enhance your efforts, ensuring that collected recyclables are processed correctly. If you haven’t already, consider implementing paperless practices and cutting back or eliminating the use of single-use plastics.

“Lastly, communicate your progress and achievements internally to show appreciation for the office-wide effort and to inspire further progress.”

Pamela Jabbour, CEO & Founder at Total Image Group

Pamela Jabbour
Pamela Jabbour, CEO & Founder at Total Image Group

“Developing a CSR strategy involves integrating sustainability and responsible practices into every aspect of your business. At Total Image Group (TIG), developing a CSR strategy began with embedding sustainability at the heart of our operations. As we strive to become B Certified, our approach focuses on five pillars: Governance, Environment, Customers, Community and Workers:

  • Governance: Ensure transparency, accountability, and ethical practices throughout the organisation.
  • Environment: Set clear goals like TIG’s pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 42% by 2030. Other examples of initiatives we have implemented are, Zero Uniforms to Landfill, using recycled fabrics where possible, consolidating deliveries, and reducing packaging waste.
  • Customers: TIG engage with customers to support their sustainability goals by providing eco-friendly products and services.
  • Community: We invest in community initiatives that promote social and environmental well-being.
  • Workers:  At TIG we foster a safe, inclusive, and supportive workplace.

“To develop your CSR strategy, start by identifying your core values and mission, assess current practices, and set measurable goals. Engage stakeholders for a collaborative approach and create a detailed action plan. Regularly monitor and report progress to maintain transparency and accountability. By embedding sustainability into your culture and operations, you can make a meaningful impact and work towards achieving your CSR goals, just as TIG has done.”

Konstantin Klyagin, Founder of Redwerk

Konstantin Klyagin
Konstantin Klyagin, Founder of Redwerk

“Developing a respectable CSR strategy involves a lot of moving parts. A growing number of SMEs are incorporating CSR into their business practices, but not always strategically, which can be a major mistake. So, how do you craft an authentic CSR strategy that strengthens your brand identity?

“First, you need to find the right cause. Don’t chase trends. Build your CSR strategy around your company values. Define key areas that are important to you and where you can make a real difference. For example, as a software development company, one of the causes Redwerk supports is promoting digital literacy among kids from foster families or underfunded schools.

“Look within your own company culture. Do your employees participate in fundraising events? When was the last company volunteer day? What’s your policy on work-life balance? These everyday practices can inform your CSR approach and lend credibility to your claims.

“Remember to track your progress and measure impact. Collect data throughout the year to prepare a comprehensive, data-backed CSR report. This will help you review and refine your CSR strategy. Share your CSR progress and achievements with your employees, clients, and partners. Transparency and accountability will reinforce your commitment to CSR and build trust among your stakeholders.”

Claire Smith, Marketing Director at FleetCard

Claire Smith
Claire Smith, Marketing Director at FleetCard

“Developing a CSR strategy for FleetCard,  One of Australia’s leading fleet payments company, has been essential to our business operations and long-term business sustainability.

“We knew environmental impact is important to consumers and therefore the businesses we support. And as a fleet first company, we knew we needed to develop a CSR strategy that not only demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship, but also leveraged innovation to meet the industry challenges our customers face.

Fleetcard +Electric is Australia’s first in market innovative all-in-one Electric Vehicle and fuel solution. It encourages and supports our customers to adopt electric vehicles, reducing carbon footprints and promoting cleaner transportation solutions. Meanwhile, ecoDRIVE supports our customers to make their fleets more environmentally friendly via a carbon offsetting program. It means businesses can have a positive impact on the planet by planting native forests that contribute to offsetting their fleet’s fuel emissions.

“These product offerings not only improve operational efficiency but also position the company as a leader in sustainable fleet management, appealing to environmentally conscious clients and stakeholders. Ultimately, embedding CSR into business practices ensures long-term viability and positive contributions to the environment and society.”

Pam Hacker, Vice President, Social Impact, Kyndryl

Pam Hacker
Pam Hacker, Vice President, Social Impact, Kyndryl

“In today’s market, having a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) or social impact program is a key differentiator. However, there’s no single approach that works for every business. For example, a large bank’s goals will naturally differ from a small manufacturer’s. One crucial element remains constant though: effective social impact programs need clear goals. These goals should be both ambitious and achievable, but most importantly, they must be authentic.

“So, how do you go about building a winning, goal-led social impact strategy? Start by aligning your goals with your company’s values and stakeholder interests. Once you have specific areas in mind, develop a clear framework to categorise them, making them memorable and measurable. For example, Kyndryl’s strategy pillars are Future Forward Education, Climate Action, and Inclusive Economy. Next up is developing a robust system for getting company-wide buy-in – and that includes leadership. Executive support can make all the difference, which is why members of our Executive Teams, both globally and locally lead and champion many of our inclusion groups. This has a remarkable flow on effect in engaging employees, and in Australia and New Zealand over 10 percent of our employee base are involved in these inclusion groups, and volunteer hours were up 100% from the previous year.

“And finally, it goes without saying that impact measurement is vital. Measuring these programs and reporting on them is the most effective way to create accountability, benchmark progress and showcase success. Looking specifically at environmental initiatives, technology has emerged as a key enabler for accelerating the impact and measuring the success of these. We recently found that 72% of organisations see great significance in technology’s role to reach their goals, yet only 32% believe they are making full use of it in their organisation. In short, goal-driven social impact strategies with strong measurement are key to ensuring your initiatives are focused, tangible, credible and impactful.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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