Do Good – Don’t Talk Good: Ten Steps for Starting a Social Responsibility Program

There is a lot of talk these days in the media about social responsibility. How do you go from talking about it, to actually doing it? It’s not complicated — get started. An Abbotsford, BC firm that is making a difference is IQ Engineering which provides professional structural engineering solutions to building owners and developers.

This past year IQ Engineering got together and helped Quantum Developments, on their clients, raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Annual Run for the Cure. On another front, connected to its core expertise, IQ was also thrilled to be asked to contribute its structural engineering knowledge to help Big Brothers Big Sisters construct their new Abbotsford office.

There are many and varied ways to do some good. Rob Quiring, President of IQ, recounts that for last year’s Christmas party, “we decided we don’t need any more useless mugs or scarfs. The idea came up in our weekly staff meeting to give something back to kids in our community. We headed on over to the Salvation Army and grabbed 8 tags from the Angle Tree. We are now all buying gifts for kids that don’t have a lot this Christmas!”

Do these initiatives make money for IQ? No. But they sound like the type of people you would want to work with.

Here are ten practical tips on how to get started with a social responsibility program for your company.

  1. Prepare a “social responsibility inventory” of what your company is doing right now. Here are a few examples: donating time and money to causes and charities, recycling, biking to work, promoting a healthy work/life back for employees. Think of this social responsibility inventory like a resume of the activities, even if incomplete, carried out by your company.
  2. Enter into a dialogue with your company’s stakeholders and find out what is meaningful to them. Stakeholders can include any group impacted by the company whether or not there is a direct commercial relationship (i.e. it might go beyond suppliers and include your local community).
  3. Establish relationships with key members of your community (i.e. trade associations, government, major charities) to see if there are specific needs that your company is particularly well suited to address due to its specific competencies.
  4. Review stakeholder relationships and assess how they affect the company and vice versa. Consider carefully what stakeholders request and what they are reasonably entitled to receive.
  5. Make sure all level of the company are involved in a social responsibility program from upper management to front-line employees. Encourage and motivate everyone to be part of a team that is making a difference.
  6. A social responsibility plan must translate into concrete actions identifying those responsible for making things happen, the authority they have for carrying it out, resources to be used, stages and deadlines and the priorities to be pursued.
  7. The company’s approach to social responsibility should reflect the company’s way of doing business—it should not be delivered in a different fashion. For example, a company’s approach to social responsibility shouldn’t dilute its brand name value.
  8. Actions should be undertaken commensurate with the resources of the company, otherwise it will not be sustainable and it will end up being a short term fad or ill-conceived public relations exercise.
  9. A company should pick a charitable group to support that dovetails with its core competencies. This will allow the company to have its most significant community impact.
  10. Finally, there must be way to evaluate the social responsibility plan. A company can assess its plan in light of the specific and measurable goals that were set down at the outset. A careful assessment will underscore the value of the entire process.

By following these ten steps a company can follow the lead of companies like IQ and get started on the road to becoming a socially responsible company.