What is CSR, and how can you leverage it?

CSR stands for Corporate Social Responsibility. It is not about greenwashing or doing things for how they look, but it is about how the company supports the wider community, without being legally bound to do so. It is done because the business is aware of the impact that they can make in the wider community that they need to flourish so that they can also flourish.

There are various criteria for CSR activities:


With local charities, groups or schools. To give an example here, Vodafone the well-known communications organisation, supports charities and schools where an employee is involved with them. For example, a member of head office staff was a Governor at a primary school. He applied to the CSR fund and Vodafone doubled the money raised at the Summer and Christmas fetes.


Some organisations allow staff paid time off, in addition to annual leave, to support various charity activities. In years gone by The Body Shop allowed every employee 2 days a year to work on a charitable cause that was close to them. Another example is the green coins given at checkouts in Waitrose where the shopper can then select which local charity that month receives a cash grant.


There are some organisations that have an ongoing relationship with a good cause. For example, Sainsburys and Red Nose Day. Sainsburys give floor space to the merchandise as well as staff doing activities to raise money. In a similar way, in the run up to Christmas many supermarkets, in pre-Covid days, had various guide and scout groups help with packing shopping for a donation. It increased till through-put and helped to raise money for the groups.

Green initiatives:

Not claiming green messaging for messaging sakes, but actually getting involved in reducing climate damage. This can be as simple as planting a tree for every new customer. One translation agency the author has used in the past, sent a small sapling out instead of a Christmas present to clients. As one of my colleagues lived in a flat, a local churchyard took it instead. McDonald’s take their chip fat and have it converted to bio-fuel. That gets them a good reputation, but also reduces their costs.


As can be seen above, some of the relationships are long lasting (Sainsburys), but for others the individual relationships change (Body Shop employees who can choose who they support). Sometimes the work done is not widely publicised, for example, Pret-a-Manger send unused sandwiches to local homeless shelters. They also recruit and train people who are homeless. They give them temporary accommodation until they are in a position to get their own.

So how can you implement CSR into your own business? It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – the McDonald’s example saves them on diesel and disposal of the oil – it may be as easy as having a pop-up display in a shop for a local charity which stocks the charities cards. Putting a poster up about a prize draw on a staff notice board, donating a prize, making sure that your printer toners are recycled by giving them to a local charity who collects them and gets a donation for each one.

If you have capacity to do some of larger ideas go for it. Your business values should enhance the CSR. It also has a positive impact on staff, they feel valued and understood when issues that concern them are supported by you.

Businesses can get bad press for the impact on the local community, but build a good relationship with the community then positive press and word of mouth recommendations will be worth their weight in gold.

[originally issued 9/5/21; edited 13/3/24]