By Business & Finance
29 June 2016

With corporate social responsibility, one size does not fit all, writes Rachel Lyons.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a term used to describe the broad range of activities and initiatives that businesses undertake as a means to support the communities in which they do business. CSR activities can range from and include charitable programmes, community initiatives as well as environmental impact awareness projects.

It has become widely accepted that developing a robust strategy for corporate social responsibility makes good business sense. Investing time and money in it can contribute greatly to the sustainability of a business.

Although the goal of any CSR programme is to make a positive impact on the community around the business driving the programme, if we are honest, it is ultimately for the benefit of the business and its own success. A well-executed strategy can bring many benefits to a business including driving innovation and transparency, engaging staff, promoting competitiveness and of course, boosting long-term profit.

Embedding CSR into your day-to-day business operations so that it works seamlessly with the business and its stakeholders is a big challenge. It is imperative that any CSR strategy is implemented and executed to the very highest standard. Research has shown that if a business doesn’t fully integrate and deliver on its CSR strategy then they were better off not engaging in one at all.

So how do you do this? I am of the view that CSR is for all business regardless of size. In some cases, SMEs can be missing both promotional as well as, more importantly, business development opportunities by overlooking or dismissing the value of CSR. We all have something to contribute. It is very easy for any business to follow 3 simple steps to contribute to the success of a CSR programme.

A good CSR strategy is one that is built on the company culture and embedded into the organisation


A good CSR strategy is one that is built on the company culture and embedded into the organisation. A good starting point is to carry out a review of the established strengths of the business to understand these fully. Then working with these at the forefront of the mind, craft the strategy. This connection plays a critical role in the successful implementation and results.

A dedicated CSR committee, with equal rights and responsibilities for all individuals on it and representing all levels in the business, should be set up to bring life to the strategy.


Employees are the life force in all businesses. Engaged employees are essential for retention, good consumer relationships and corporate performance. Employee engagement has become a critical goal for businesses. One of the greatest ways of increasing employee engagement is through CSR programmes.

A strong corporate responsibility towards society and the environment can help create a positive workplace. One of the main reasons for this is that working for companies with a strong CSR strategy and partaking in the programme and its activities gives a sense of purpose and meaning.

Doing something meaningful in the workplace, e.g., corporate volunteering, will impact the general meaningfulness at work. As well as ensuring that the CSR committee and strategy is driven by staff, all activities also need staff buy in to be successful.

Employees are the life force in all businesses

Rachel Lyons

Rachel Lyons, Friends First


Don’t just tell the staff what’s going on through internal communication but tell customers, suppliers, other stakeholders and those further afield. Acknowledge the work and participation in the various programmes.

All CSR-related activities are suitable for promotion, not just for added visibility to create goodwill but also for increasing participation and involvement in the initiatives themselves. In our current era of social media, it is very easy to gain extensive exposure for CSR in a simple and quick way.

It is widely accepted that investing in CSR makes good business sense. However, it is the alignment of the strategy and the buy-in of staff to its implementation that will dictate success or failure.

Engagement and support

Friends First recently announced a new charity partnership with Aware. The aim of the two-year partnership is to promote mutually beneficial engagement and support between the charity and Friends First, which includes fundraising and staff volunteering to work with the charity.

The staff in Friends First were involved in the selection process and the shortlist was chosen to align with charities that reflect the Friends First values.

As a mental health charity, Aware are aligned with our role as a provider of life protection and income protection products and as an employer committed to supporting all staff in their own health and wellness.