So you are a global company, but don’t quite yet have a handle on global CSR? Maybe you have a domestic program in place, or even give to a crisis here and there. But expanding to the international realm is quite another level.
You’re not alone. Many internationally minded companies don’t yet have an international CSR presence. Yet there is an effective way to increase your bottom line, your brand and your local presence through CSR, while also serving our communities. Here are some starter ideas on how to scale your programs internationally.
Have a Plan Based on Your Company’s Objectives
It sounds simple. But you can’t just react to a crisis, or have your foundation give money and expect that to build your CSR brand. It’s not that easy. Any good CSR program develops from starting with your company’s objectives and goals.
Ideally, the plan starts from the CEO’s office. You determine what the company’s bottom line objectives are, which could include brand, employee retention and/or product adoption. Equally important you’d then listen to your company’s foundation, community relations department, and your employees. Here you would determine a plan based on both for profit and community-based objectives. And if you’re really advanced, you’d consider roping in Corporate Communications and the Marketing Department for their input.
A balanced, thoughtful global CSR plan is a company-wide effort that takes into account for-profit and community-minded objectives.
Headquarters v. Local
Your first two objectives should be to: 1) Help meet the profit-minded goals of your company. 2) Translate that into value for the community both domestically and internationally. Try to ensure that you have a good plan that is accepted by headquarters, by the CEO, and by your foundation, community relations, corporate communications and marketing departments. That synergy is very important to achieve when you’re first starting out.
The second, equally important, part of the planning process is to make sure that you include your local offices, all over the world. This includes local employees, local governments, and local NGOs.
Your company may have decided technology and education are important headquarter objectives which will help your company’s bottom line. But what are your local employees, in different international communities, experiencing? Your company needs to know the communities needs before identifying a target area.
Perhaps one of your employees in India walks by the slums everyday on the way to work. She might like to support a soup kitchen. When you listen to a team of employees in Norway, they might be concerned about the increasing pollution or global warming. Your employee in Cambodia or Guatemala may see that conservation of important monuments and past civilizations is being neglected. Will you be open to responding to the concerns they face on a daily basis? Will you commit to creatively finding a way to tie this into your CSR objectives?
It is most certainly challenging to balance corporate headquarter objectives with what local employees know and feel on the ground. But this brings us to our next point. By enfranchising your employees to make a difference, you absolutely will affect your bottom line. Your company employees are your presence. Taking the time to engage with your global CSR vision, you will effectively serve your company’s bottom line — as well as the bottom line of the strength and health of our global communities.
This is your first step towards attaining a Local License to Operate. It is not an official license, and you cannot get it ‘issued’ from an entity, institution, the government or a third party company. You can only get this type of license by having your company build relationships, on multiple levels, in an ethical manner. This focuses on NGO partners on the ground - which NGOs have a significant presence on the ground? Have you spent the time listening to them, working with them, hearing their concerns and goals?
Cultural Terms, Cultural Sensitivities
Each culture view all our “terms” differently. Philanthropy, Volunteering, Corporate Social Responsibility— and many more terms — are often defined quite differently in other cultures and groups. We need to understand that these terms are a part of our heritage and culture, but not necessarily in another community.
What is particularly tricky here is that you or your company might be striving to do something very benevolent that may not be well received. For example, you might want to send a team of volunteers to help build a home in a community. While this may have the best intentions, some countries, they are used to receiving support more locally. They would rely on friends and neighbors to provide these services. Outside help may not be welcomed, or even warranted.