Corporate Social Responsibility: The Big Picture Beyond Doing Business

by Scott Scheidel

What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)? It’s an official term for a company’s societal goals – its bigger-picture policies and efforts that transcend doing business.

CSR has four key pillars:

  • Environment
  • Labor and Human Rights
  • Ethics
  • Sustainable Procurement

Does your company have a dedicated CSR program? A commitment larger than recycling office paper and toner cartridges? All companies, big and small, should commit to a CSR program to benefit society. Today it is expected. Below are recommendations for starting a CSR program.

A champion, executive support, and a plan

First, select a CSR “champion” in your company. This individual must have a passion for CSR and the ability to gain support from executive management. If the organization’s leaders are not committed or just give CSR lip service, a long-term sustainable program is destined to fall short.

You also need a plan. Think about the specific impact you want your CSR program to have.  Start small. Gain support and help from fellow team members and grow your program one project at a time. Assemble a CSR action team that involves cross-functional departments. This approach is the best way to spread the word on what CSR is all about, its importance to your company, and how others can participate.

Work on getting a dedicated CSR budget set up and supported for CSR initiatives. Again, start small, and as involvement grows, so can your budget.


For your initial CSR project, consider enhancing something you are doing now. Philanthropy and community involvement are common CSR initiatives. Serving the most basic needs – feeding others – is a great place to start. At Imperial, we have participated in supporting Kids’ Food Basket and Meals on Wheels. Projects tackling hunger and access to food are especially critical at this time in history, with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions making life a bigger challenge than ever.

Your company can also provide organizations with expertise. Consider making company employees available to assist with a charity’s fundraising activities. Your finance personnel could help a local nonprofit draft its annual report. One of our human resources executives is a member of a local HR advisory board, where information on new CSR programs and initiatives can be shared among members, and shared benchmarking can be established.

Foster a spirit of shared purpose and camaraderie, and make participation in CSR initiatives fun for your employees. Distribute T-shirts and award prizes for participation and/or goals achieved.

Measuring success

One simple way to measure success is to keep track of the resources your company is applying to your CSR program. That means tracking dollars as well as employee hours.  Each year, as part of your plan, set a goal to involve more employees and increase the number of volunteer hours over the previous year. The more participants you have involved, the larger the pool of individuals you have to draw on. The saying “many hands, make light work” comes into focus and involvement can be rewarding.

Taking your CSR program to the next level

Through a Johnson & Johnson initiative, Imperial Clinical Research Services engaged EcoVadis to review our CSR program. EcoVadis is a Paris-based organization that rates its global network of 65,000 companies on CSR.

EcoVadis gave our CSR program a Silver rating. The EcoVadis subscription program includes guidance on what it will take to close the gap between your company’s current position and the next level. With this information, we know what to do, and we believe we will reach our goal of a Gold rating.

Helping each other

Organizations like EcoVadis are excellent resources, but there is no official CSR answer book for each company’s unique characteristics and potential. No two companies are alike, and companies must ultimately navigate their own way through setting and meeting CSR goals. Collaboration and communication are helpful. Imperial would love to hear about your CSR program. And if you would like to discuss CSR ideas, getting started, or best practices, let’s talk.

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