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Friend or Foe?

Friend or Foe?

The current financial meltdown and global recession has taken its toll on the business community as well as the common man. The sluggish economy has forced companies to cut back on costs and revise financials. As a result companies are forced to take extreme measures in order to cope with the ever deteriorating situation. Short-sighted companies have taken upon drastic measures that will result in long term deficits and losses.

These are trying times and require companies to strategically analyze the state of affairs and incorporate new business practices that will result in improved efficiency and long term benefits. One such entity that has become a priority in 2009 is CSR-Corporate Social Responsibility. But many companies are quite unsure what actually constitutes CSR. So let's take a look at what it is exactly?

CSR simply means that businesses will make a conscious effort to operate in a manner that is respectful to the environment, people and other related entities. Since businesses are operating within the society it obligates them to give something back to the region and society in which the business is conducted. It's all about being responsible and making an effort to do something positive and worthwhile for everyone. As much as we hate it, in times of crisis, a few areas get their budgets cut until the boat stabilizes. Marketing, IT and CSR are just three examples that come up at casual inspection.

Considering the fact that the investment back into the community doesn't necessarily have to be a distinct and separate budget, it usually ends up being so. Think about this -- you, as a business, utilize the resources of the ecosystem around you that is available to you, without having to tap into a specific 'segment'. Why then, should you have to allot a segment or specific budget for an isolated CSR activity? If you really want to bring a real impact into the community and not utilize CSR only for PR points, then create corporate-driven programs which the members of the community can help make sustainable and carry on. IT companies, especially, who perhaps do not have the capacity to allocate specific budgets towards CSR, can put their innovation to use and network and draw together a community closer than any other sector. They already have the necessary know how and motivation to use technology to bring the greater benefit.

Corporate Social responsibility is still a very debatable topic, as some think that companies do not have the extra time and resources for such activities. Despite the debate, there are some very visible and profitable benefits that can be acquired. Safeguarding and protecting the environment in which one functions can benefit the organization in many ways.

Think Local: The best way to operate is to cut costs by using local resources and raw materials. This will help the local manufacturers and suppliers, as well as acting as an inflated cost deterrent for the company.

Be Environment Friendly: Going "GREEN" is another great way to conserve the environment. Use of alternate and clean energy sources, solar paneling, recycling, use of non-toxic and biodegradable products are excellent examples of minimizing negative impact on the environment.

Better Public Relations: Then there are the wider benefits, such as how your business is perceived. Proving yourself as socially responsible company can magnify your image and enhance your reputation. Make sure you publicize your CSR events and make it a part of a continuing process of building long-term value.

Ensure that customers, suppliers and the local community know what you are doing. Highlight the key benefits of your CSR efforts, as it will help in portraying a positive image and build a loyal customer base. People always give preference to companies that have a responsible and ethical approach.

Therefore those organizations that will initiate serious measures towards incorporating CSR in their business models will gain long term success by gaining the respect and confidence of their customers and shareholders.

About the Author

Marryam Chaudhry is the Managing Director, Corporate Communications, Lahore. She is a professional Management Consultant and Corporate Trainer. She may be contacted at: marryam@ceesquare.com

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