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CSR Strategy, B Corporations and What It Means for Your Business

In our last issue, we discussed the principles of corporate social responsibility and how it can strengthen your brand. When done correctly, good CSR can completely change the way your customers, employees and stakeholders view your business. So, what does a successful CSR strategy look like?

Tips to get started

Build the approach around your company’s core goals

Think about what your business already does well along with your values and philosophy and build the strategy around that.

Know what your customers care about

According to Cone Communications, 87% of American customers  said they’re more likely to purchase a product if a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

Develop programs that make your employees proud

Protect and grow your biggest asset: your employees. Creating an engaging and healthy work culture that everyone is proud of means employees are more likely to stay.

Rethink your company’s idea of CSR

Social responsibility needs to start from within. Being a fair employer, investing in local communities and creating products to ensure employee wellbeing are all great places to start.

Take it to the next level

B Corporations companies are certified by B Lab by meeting certain standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and accountability.

To measure impact, B Lab uses its B Impact Assessment, a publicly available assessment tool. It asks a series of questions to assess performance in the following areas: Governance, Workers, Community and Environment.

B corps are accelerating a global culture shift towards redefining success in business and building a more inclusive sustainable economy.

Becoming a B Corporation

Within the GBC network, Transformation Catalyst is a certified B Corp and I had the chance to speak with Brian Soregaroli to get the details on their journey to corporate social responsibility.

How is your CSR program integrated into the policies and procedures for Transformation Catalyst?

Our procedures and training manuals specify that we should give preference to local businesses and suppliers who also have shown a credible commitment to CSR practices. We recognize that often this does not mean selecting the least expensive option, but all else being equal, we choose to support our local economy and communities. We feel that the less expensive options from suppliers outside of our local community are generally only available to us due to the externalization of costs (for example, poor working conditions, unethical labour practices, environmental degradation, etc.) to people and communities in other parts of the world. To the extent we can in this globalized economy, we try to make decisions that don’t support such practices, and that support our local community, and we are willing to forego some of our profit margin to do so.

Was it something you set out to do from the beginning, or did it happen organically as the company grew and progressed?

This has always been part of our corporate DNA, as Michèle and I have always held ourselves to a high standard of ethical behaviour and social responsibility. The core of our business is to be in service to others, and that requires we act in a way that is an example to those we serve. Our clients often aspire to build their businesses to have purpose and meaning beyond their own needs and desires, and helping them build a vision that embraces corporate social responsibility is at the heart of that mission.

Why did you feel implementing a program was important?

The way we were managing our business was already consistent with the CSR guidelines promoted by the B Corp community. We were starting to guide some of our clients toward B Corp certification, so we decided that it was time to put our money where our mouth was and formalize our commitment to managing our business with the ‘People-Profit-Planet’ triple bottom line. Given the nature of our work, we also focus heavily on a fourth dimension, both in our business and in helping our clients build meaning into their businesses.

Do you believe a CSR program is necessary in business? Why?

Okay, so CSR is absolutely not ’necessary’ in a business. A significant majority of businesses operate without taking responsibility for anything other than profit. Incorporating social responsibility into the mandate of a business is a journey that takes time and requires a few basic elements to be in place. At the end of the day, it is about leveraging your business as a force for good — investing the rewards of your success in the changes you want to see in the world, starting in your own back yard, where you can directly experience the positive impact of your investment.

How did Transformation Catalyst become a B Corp company?

As we started guiding our clients toward B Corp certification, we realized that the way we were operating our business was consistent with their mandate, and we were already doing many of the things that they required for certification. So, we successfully embarked on the certification process. It is based on a points system awarded for various, formalized CSR practices and you have to meet a certain total points threshold to become certified. B Corps are required to re-certify every three years and, although the process gets increasingly complex and stringent every year, to encourage ongoing improvement in CSR, companies are expected to exceed their previous points total.