How to Develop a Corporate Social Responsibility Program — Part 2: Articulate

In this episode, we discuss Part 2 of developing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, creating your why and what your program is solving for. We discuss how to frame your program around the business problems/issues the CSR Program is solving for, how it aligns your stakeholder priorities and what's your overall program vision.

Watch and Read Part 1: Research

Watch and Read Part 3: Back It Up

Watch and Read Part 4: Advocacy

Watch and Read Part 5: The Pitch

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Karl Yeh:

So today I'm joined by Nicole Campbell CSR expert, and we're talking about part two of how to develop a CSR program and that's the articulate phase. So Nicole, can you actually explain to me and to everybody else, what articulate actually means?

Articulate: Think about what you are solving for

Nicole Campbell:

Sure. And you also failed to introduce a very important guest, today. This is Winston joining us too. Yeah, so articulate.

I think that this articulate step is often overlooked or we don't spend enough time on something that is so important.

What you really want to do with articulate is essentially step back and reframe your thinking around what you’re solving for in the first place.

And this is going to help you frame your pitch to your executives and frame any other lead or conversations that you should be having about this program as you build this profile throughout your company.

So the first thing that you really want to think about, and it's going to seem obvious, but I'll explain the important nuances here, is what are you trying to do? And this is so important just to take the time with your team and be like, "Okay, what are we solving for? What are we trying to do?

Sometimes we get so focused on an action, that we lose sight of the why behind what we're actually trying to do.

So it's not just implementing a matching gifts program or sustainability program, it's more than that.

You need to level up on what it is exactly you're trying to do and solve for the very critical question, which is why. Why are you doing this?

And this ties back into the research.

So for instance, maybe you're trying to attract and retain the world's top talent, and your program is one of the ways that you can actually achieve that.

So really getting clear on what that why looks like within your company is going to be really important. And you should have already started to establish this in the first step, which is research.

If you haven't done that, go back, start talking to your HR business partners and your leaders to understand the critical priorities in your business that you can solve for.

And yeah, you can check that video out in the notes section too, if you want to be linked back.


Solving for the Business or CSR Program?

Karl Yeh:

I interrupt you one second, because it's interesting when you say, what are you trying to do? Are you saying, what are you trying to do from the business point of view?

Or what are you trying to do from the CSR program point of view? Or are they the same?

Nicole Campbell:

So ultimately, a well-designed CSR strategy is going to be aligning to the business in a meaningful way.

And there should be a lot of different cross sections where the work that your CSR program is doing is solving for multiple business benefits, but that why is the higher level business level.

This is what you're trying to solve for, using your CSR strategy as a lever to accomplish that. We're going to talk about getting more clear on the CSR level strategy, but that is so essential if you're trying to really accelerate your program.

And I should say, there are some companies out there, and I've even talked to the directors of these programs personally, where that alignment to the business isn't as necessary.

They are just given a budget from their CEO to be able to do really good and important things, but that's not always the case.

So we're working from a place for the majority of CSR practitioners who are in a state where they need to have that exact business tie-in to get the leverage and support and resources that they need to be successful.

That's the reality and congrats to you and you don't need to do that.

You're the exception to the rule and hopefully we'll all get to that point at some point in the game here.

Understand your stakeholder priorities

Back to some of the articulation here.

So once you understand why you're doing it, really make sure that you are thinking about what your stakeholders' biggest priorities are.

So like I said, that's part of the research phase and your stakeholders should vary.

They can be the head of whatever business unit you'd like to report into, or you are reporting into.

And it could be even an executive board that have various priorities.

And so the money spot is how are you aligning?

Like we talked about the why, what you're trying to do with the stakeholder priorities. And if they're not aligning, that's when you have a problem. That's when you need to go back to the drawing board and think about how you're going to better align this.

What does success mean for you and the program?

So the next piece of articulate is, what's success to you.

So upon achieving X, so putting in your CSR program or a social impact program, how are you going to define a success at that point?

You need to be able to articulate that early in the game, so you can build that traction and buy-in throughout the entire process.

And then the last thing.

The success often comes after you’ve already developed your why and what your priorities are going to be.

I encourage anyone who's leading one of these programs, to think about your vision.

Develop your Vision

So you might have a company vision and mission statement, but do the same for your CSR program.

What is it that your CSR program is trying to achieve?

Something that's exciting and inspiring and somewhat aligned with maybe what your business's vision is.

So then any single time you're talking about this work, you should be able to rhyme off,

"This is what we're trying to accomplish. This is the why. This is success. This is our vision."

The inspirational piece might be able to get people backing what you're doing and extend your impact, extend your support, resources, all of those things that are so hard for CSR practitioners.

If you got this stuff down and you are setting this up like a business, you're going to be so much further ahead than if you don't.

So when we're thinking about all of this, I was working with a client once who was putting together a new or re-imagining their CSR strategy, which is kind of similar from building work from scratch, I have to say in some ways.

Anyway, so this person was actually nervous for her job.

There were a lot of reorganizations and we knew that if we wanted to get the support and build this program right, we needed to understand what her executives cared about.

And so, there's one way you can do this, which we talked about, which is understanding the business priorities. But after doing a bit of research, we understood that their new CEO cared a lot, a lot, a lot about innovation.

They wanted their people to be more innovative. They wanted their company, their products. They wanted to have this as your reputation.

So we were starting to think about how CSR could actually solve for innovation, which was a pet interest of his.

And so we started thinking about skills-based volunteer programs that were leveraging their core competencies. We went back in and we pitched this, and he was so excited that he doubled their budget.

Nicole Campbell:

So just as an example of really knowing what people care about. If you can solve someone's problem, they're going to listen.

Karl Yeh:

That's great. That's great. Do you have anything else to add, in terms of their articulate phase?

Nicole Campbell:

No. Just have this stuff memorized, know your business priorities in the back of your pocket. And every single time you connect with say a leader or one of your stakeholders, be able to start with that why?

I remember when I worked in-house as a CSR practitioner, I remember seeing my founder at a social and I was able to go up and frame the conversation about, "Hey, we know that you're trying to do X.

This is how we're trying to help solve for that too." People will listen if you are super clear around that why. That's, I think my last point. Maybe I'm reinforcing this one too much. But any other thoughts on your end, Karl?

Karl Yeh:

No, that's pretty much it for me. But remember if you're getting value from this video, make sure to hit the like button.

Question for you

But I do have a question for our audience and that's, what is your why? What was your why when you were developing your CSR program? Let us know in the comment section below.

So check out the other phases of how to start a CSR program in this playlist here, as well as this playlist on other CSR strategies and tactics.

Thanks for watching. And we'll see you in our next episode.

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About Nicole Campbell:

Nicole’s passion for behavioural science plays a key role in her ability to help organizations manage and adapt to change. 

Nicole has worked with companies of all sizes, industries, program varieties, and varying levels of executive support — and has had a hand in designing or growing Social Impact programs for some of the biggest brands out there. Her role, working with so many different companies, has provided her with a wealth of experience, data and anecdotes that have shaped a strong understanding of what works, what doesn’t and what’s next.