Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is not a legend anymore! Especially since the alarming IPCC report released this year which assesses the impacts of climate change.
In this article, we’ll discuss what CSR means for large and small companies and describe best practices for implementing programs to become environmentally friendly.
Measuring and Reducing Environmental Impact
Today’s market conditions have forced organizations to review how they use and optimize their resources. Under pressure from regulators and the force of public opinion, companies have to update their business strategies in order to fold in socially- and environmentally-conscious practices into their operations.
For some organizations, that’s an easy proposition; reducing negative impact may have been a high priority for their founders and so got encoded into the business’ DNA. But for most organizations, such a focus needs to be added in after perhaps many years of not attending to environmental health.
That kind of shift can only succeed, however, if teams across the organization learn to understand and measure the organization’s environmental impact.
As with just about any project, it is best to begin by setting objectives. And, of course, objectives are virtually useless if you don’t couple them with the right KPIs to measure their progress over time. KPIs can help you evaluate how quickly your programs are being implemented, at what cost, and for which results.
When embarking on an initiative to reduce water consumption, energy consumption, waste production, or gas emission, the first step will consist of diagnosis—measuring the extent of the organization’s environmental imprint.
This is an essential step to create a benchmark for your progress. The following are actions you can take to reduce your organization’s environmental footprint along with the corresponding KPIs to track performance over time:
1. Re-evaluate your employees’ commute and other professional travels
Whether your employees commute to work or go on business trips, limiting car travel will limit your environmental impact. Promote options for your employees to work from home and attend remote online meetings to help reduce the frequency of these trips.
Corresponding KPI: The number of business trips made over a given period of time compared to a previous period.
2. Promote eco-friendly habits
Reducing your energy bill on your premises is an essential step and relatively easy to deploy. Two pillars come into play: a no-waste policy and energy efficiency, the first being to avoid waste, the last being to consume better and with less energy for the same level of comfort.
Corresponding KPI: The percentage decrease in electricity consumption from one period to the next.
3. Participate in carbon compensation and insetting
Your business can contribute to carbon sequestration by participating in reforestation and agroforestry programs, both nationally and around the world. In conjunction with local farmers and others, you can reduce your environmental footprint and help restore valuable ecosystems.
Corresponding KPI: The amount of funds allocated for sponsorships overtime.
4. Reduce your paper consumption
Throughout its life cycle, from deforestation to waste treatment, paper has had an impact on the environment. In industrialized countries, on average, each person consumes between 200 and 300 kilograms of paper each year.
If everyone on Earth used that amount, trees would soon disappear from the face of the Earth.
If we add to that the five liters of water required to make a single A4 sheet of paper, it only adds to the imperative to reduce paper consumption in your company.
Several KPIs can help track the reduction of paper consumption, including:
- The percentage of total paper consumption that is made of recycled paper
- Total paper consumption per partner or supplier. This will also help you recognize how eco-responsible they are and which ones use less-polluting manufacturing processes
- The number of employees that are implementing paper-saving practices, such as double-sided printing, printing two pages per sheet, or choosing to send a digital document instead of a paper one.
Impact on City Level
Carbon footprint evolution is significant and relevant at a city level. According to ADEME, France’s environment and energy management agency, among all economic sectors in France, the building sector consumes the most energy: the equivalent of 70 million tons of oil. That is 43% of the total energy consumed annually.
So, measuring and optimizing the energy performance of buildings becomes a necessity for ecological, economic, and societal reasons.
A building’s energy efficiency has many payoffs: it consumes less energy, it is easier to maintain, and it sustains more value. While the impact is economic for its owners, it is also an opportunity and a challenge for builders and architects that like to demonstrate their know-how and innovation.
At the same time, the community can get involved to create an urban ecosystem adapted to the emerging needs of the society.
Improving the energy performance of buildings is essential to eliminating the dangers of obsolescence and to reducing energy waste.
It is also a way to optimize the ratio between the cost of the initial investment compared to the costs of operations and maintenance.
Energy performance can be measured using a variety of criteria, such as:
- The number of buildings or the uses made of them, such as public spaces, private spaces, workspaces, etc.
- The use of energy-consuming systems, such as heating, lighting, air conditioning, wastewater treatment, etc.
- The functional utility of the buildings. For example, a hospital will not have the same needs as an office building or a traditional house.
For optimal accuracy, measuring a building’s energy efficiency will require an in-depth analysis of the building correlated with its uses, systems, and functional utility.
For best results, incorporate metrics that reflect the thermal quality of the building wall material, protection against solar radiation, interior and exterior lighting methods, production and distribution of hot water, and so forth.
Impact on People
But CSR is not just about limiting your organization’s negative impact on the Earth—it’s also about having a positive impact on your people.
Some areas to review include social policies, professional equality, time reconciliation, non-discrimination training, and your policies on recruiting and employing older and disabled workers.
Social diversity programs and a positive corporate culture help organizations understand their customers better, facilitate their creativity, expand their recruitment pools, and contribute to a sustainable society.
In addition, what “quality” was for the 20th-century organization, “ethics” will be for the 21st-century organization. Ethical requirements need to be integrated into all professions, and in all sectors, including data processing, artificial intelligence, genetics, ecology, and robotization.
These are usually HR and internal communication concerns, and certain KPIs are invaluable for tracking and measuring progress in these areas:
- Gender equality: The percentage of women by job types
- Employment of disabled people: The number of employees with disabilities compared to the previous period
- Retention of senior workers (50 years and over): The percentage of seniors by status and by job category
For public companies, these will typically fall under the category “Diversity and Equal Opportunities” in their monthly reports.
To improve these metrics, some organizations have made numerous commitments pertaining to CSR when it comes to HR, including signing contracts and pacts (Diversity, Parenthood, etc.), implementation of an Ethics Charter, negotiation and conclusion of Group Agreements (Diversity, Mobility, Quality of life at work).
CSR and Communication
Being a more ethical organization includes making an effort to promote your CSR activities to your teams, shareholders, partners, and, most importantly, your customers.
Consumers are looking for more transparency from brands, especially when it comes to what’s being done to limit the company’s environmental footprint. In other words, being clear about your CSR strategies is 100% part of being ethical.
The younger generation pays more attention to a more balanced life and has expectations that the brands they love are up for the challenge. This is especially true with food, textiles, and home equipment.
So, KPIs can be used to track the relevance of your CSR communication plan and monitor your CSR success. If your business primarily communicates online, categories of performance indicators to track your success with your communications might include:
- Website CSR page: Track the number of visitors, time spent on the page, and bounce rate. Include a return rate if the page is updated regularly.
- Blog articles: track the number of subscriptions to the blog, most read articles, and the conversion rate from the blog to the website.
- Newsletters Stats: Track the number of newsletters sent, opened, and read over time. An Unsubscribe rate might also be relevant.
- Engagement: Types of engagement with HR can help evaluate the interest of your community on different topics and can be tracked by the number of likes, shares, and followers for Facebook.
- Online campaigns: For a video on YouTube, for example, track views/prints, clicks, and shares.
Another reason that communication is essential is that CSR is still a new trend; many business owners are still exploring how best to proceed. The optimal CSR strategies are directly related to the level of awareness the organization has about environmental and ethical matters.
States and NGOs like to track general public awareness on these issues. Within organizations, surveys can be used to track the progress of the staff’s awareness. And, if new skills need to be developed, KPIs could be attached to each of the training programs.
Use Helpful Dashboards
Here are some dashboards that can help with project management, digital communication performance tracking, and survey results reports.