How can businesses create a truly impactful CSR strategy?

17 April 2023

How can businesses create a truly impactful CSR strategy?

Corporate social responsibility - it’s something that’s been playing on the minds of business owners for years now. And whether it’s breaking news headlines, articles or academic literature, there’s so much noise around the subject matter.

But it’s more than just a buzzword, a marketing tactic or fundraising. It’s something that needs to be engrained into the way we do business.

And when your strategy is done right with a long-term vision kept in mind, the advantages that come with it can be plentiful. Having a tangible impact on productivity, recruitment, retention and competitive advantage within your market.

If you’re starting your strategy from scratch, looking to refresh your plans, or making real headway with CSR journey, we’ve outlined everything you need to be considering.


What actually is corporate social responsibility?

Sounds like a simple question to ask what CSR strategy actually is, but it’s surprising how misunderstood the concept actually is in practice.

Definitions vary from different institutes and academics, but simply put CSR is your business’s responsibility to society and all of your stakeholders.

In practice, CSR is generally broken down into four useful pillars, which we’ve outlined below. But before we look at what CSR looks like in day-to-day terms, it’s crucial to look at your purpose.


Know your purpose

Don’t just start CSR implementing tactics without considering why you’re actually doing it.

Look at the core reason of why your business exists. Not just what you sell, make, provide or do. But what you stand for and what your values are, your proposition, goals and strategies.

In doing so you can evaluate your what your social purpose is and how you can create a better place to live and do business for all of your stakeholders.

This is where you can start to curate a strategy for CSR that truly adds value rather than just creating a plan for the sake of tokenism.


A toolkit for CSR

Constituting of workplace; environment; community and philanthropy, the pillars are known and spoken of and utilised by many owner managers.

By encompassing all 17 of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals they offer a great starting point for you to reflect upon how your strategy and plans align with your purpose:


Paying minimum wage and offering nothing else won’t cut it (and it hasn’t for a long time now). Reflect on what you can be doing to go further, value your team and address the challenges and necessities of today’s society.

Whether your EDI policies include offering flexible and agile working, access to talent development programmes and progression plans, or employee benefits and wellbeing initiatives, there are masses of incentives to consider here. All of which can play a massive contributing factor towards recruitment and retention too.

With the new financial year upon us, now is a perfect time to have a deep dive into your workplace initiatives and looking at how the form part of your overall strategy.



The race to Net Zero has already begun, and there’s no denying that businesses are going to play a pivotal part of the UK’s bid to reach that target by 2050.

And with 83% of SMEs stating that sustainability has become more important to them over the course of the last year, more owner managers are standing up and taking action.

Of course, what this action looks like will be different from one business to another – there’s no one size fits all. For some, it might be making small adjustments to the way they work, for others it could require an audit of carbon footprint to reveal insights into how to cut back, whereas for other businesses it might require an overhaul of their process – and in some cases even their infrastructure.

This might seem daunting from a cost point of view. But there’s support on offer from the government and local authorities to help you along the way, so it’s worth researching and keeping up to date with what’s out there to help you on your journey.



Members of your local community are not to be forsaken – they’re one of your wider stakeholders after all. So, commitment to local community is vital.

From reviewing your supply chain to see where you can make the switch to local, offering volunteering days to your team and creating charity partnerships, to getting involved with schools and universities in your area, getting involved with your local community will only help to make it a more prosperous and positive place for you to do business.



Fundraising can go a long way in supporting a cause, and it is not to be discounted. But it’s worth turning attention back to your purpose when it comes to charity. Where can you actually add value and make a difference rather than just raising funds?

Having an open conversation with your team can be a great jumping off point. What do they feel particularly passionate about? Is it supporting young people with employability, or raising awareness of mental health within the workplace? If you can tap into this, then it will help to raise engagement levels internally, whilst also having a positive impact on society.


How to measure your CSR success…

Much like your business plan you need to be able to monitor your success and set clear objectives and KPIs. This will highlight where to turn your attention to and where to improve.

For a starting point, don’t just presume that you are already doing your best – seek feedback. Speak to your team, benchmark yourself against competitors, and if you can warrant it, look into the investment of hiring a consultant who can really drive your strategy forward.

If you’re strategy is already well underway, it’s worth considering an accreditation through a third party. This can be a great way of communicating your success, whilst also giving you insights and recommendations for further growth.


Make sure it’s not just marketing

A final word to really hone in on when it comes to CSR is that honest and clear communication is key. Your stakeholders will appreciate it more. By veering away from this, you run the risk of greenwashing.

We can all say we’re doing good. But if there’s a disparity between our words and actions, it will inevitably be called out. Misleading claims, false advertisement and outright illegal activity from businesses across globe are being spotlighted for greenwashing. Over the course of the last few years we’ve seen huge examples of this hit the headlines: Innocent, HSBC, Ryanair and Unilever all being rightfully called out.

Your CSR strategy can form part of your marketing activity, but the focus behind your CSR strategy cannot be recognition and marketing output.