A CSR Strategy Must Include Employees: 6 Easy Steps in Just 90 Days

Employee engagement

Engaging your employees can be a powerful boost to your business.

This article is a collaborative effort of  Leslie Bennett & Heather Shapter of Open Spaces Learning.

Ever been in this situation?

  • You have a fabulous socially or environmentally responsible idea that fulfills on something you are mandated to do.  It’s smart. You’re excited…and you can’t get the buy-in you need to get it off the ground.


  • Your organization has mandated a recycling program – you know its good for the environment and business to recycle but your colleagues are still tossing their recyclables in the nearest wastebasket.

Whether you are innovating or simply wanting to see your company fulfill on its stated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals, the frustration of feeling alone in seeing the value and importance of broader support and action is common.  Here we want to give you some proven places to start that can generate the wider buy-in you are looking for.  Part of the secret to success is being open to strange bedfellows – people from another department, people at a different level of seniority – becoming your partners in moving towards success.  You’ll recognize them by the values you share.

You don’t have to be the CSR manager to make this work. If you’re the line operator and you think the company should be helping at the local soup kitchen and you’re encountering obstacles, this is for you too.

Step 1) Determine the goal of your CSR initiative. State it as measurable, specific and easily identifiable (your 12 year old should be able to tell you if you have completed it) e.g. in six months our department will decrease the amount of waste by 50% or in the next eight months 40% more employees in a certain division are taking advantage of the company program that allows employees to take a day from work to volunteer.

You can use the 90-day strategy map tool as a way to identify all of the elements to have your company engage in your CSR initiative in that timeframe. Some of the benefits of using a  90 day strategy map include identifying the outcome (step 1), the core values that drive the engagement in the outcomes (step 2),the assets you currently have to support the outcome (step 3) and the actions you need to take to complete your outcome (step 4).

…everything turned around for the company’s CSR program when a cross-organizational team was created that aligned around their values…

Step 2) Identify the core values that are driving your interest in this initiative. Share with others to find out if they too share the same values or otherwise said, if they have resonant core values. Remember to talk with people who are not your obvious partners – people you may not usually interact with at work. You may be surprised how much you think alike. You’ll recognize your potential valued-aligned partners by listening to the energy and excitement they have in what you are sharing and/or you notice they take actions that are in line with those. Doug Horswill, Senior Vice-President of Sustainability and External Affairs at Teck recalls how everything turned around for the company’s CSR program when a cross-organizational team was created that aligned around their values, “We found an untapped energy across the whole organization…people were committed enough to work on this on their own time, evenings and weekends.”  Finding those individuals who share your similar beliefs is key to ensuring your 90 day strategy is successful.

Step 3) Identify assets.  Assets are everything you currently have around you (contacts, documents, equipment, etc) that allow you to attain your desired outcome. Look at which business contacts, community contacts or colleagues can support you. Add them to the asset list. Identify any relevant certification, education, training or skills you or the people you know have. Add them to the asset list as well. Look at your available budget. Add that to the asset list. The trick is to look for everything that you have that would support you in achieving your desired outcome.

Step 4) Identify the actions and behaviours that will lead to the outcome.
Part of the strategic value of a 90-day strategy map is identifying the actions that support you and your team to keep focused on accomplishing your outcome. This could include: what conversations do you need to have?; what assets are missing?; what actions will support you in creating new behaviours to achieve your outcomes? Typically these actions are general and consistent. This means that if you continually do the actions listed, it would be entirely predictable that your outcome would be achieved in the desired time frame.

Step 5) Create a pilot project. Once you have a small group of individuals who have bought into the idea, ask them to create a pilot of the idea with you – a small experiment with a low cost and low risk that can be accomplished within the remainder of your 90-day framework.   Using our examples from Step 1, “in 72 days our department will decrease the amount of waste by 25%” or “in 80 days, 20% more employees in a certain division are taking advantage of the company program that allows employees to take a day from work to volunteer”. As Chris Roberts, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Sodexo Canada recently told us, in his experience, taking small steps can unlock bigger successes when done with good planning and operating from shared values. Remember to note your baseline so you can measure your progress towards your goal.

Step 6) Share your successes. As your pilot project begins to have success, share this with your managers, directors and senior executives. This will give you the credibility and quantifiable measurements to take the CSR program to a larger scale. Do this in a way that emphasizes the amount of resonance this project had across the organization, as represented by the diversity of individuals involved from different departments. Don’t show-off to the nay-sayers you encountered before you started but make sure they notice your outcomes!

Changing hearts and minds feels like a big task but becomes manageable when you have a number of people pulling for and experimenting with an idea, based on their values.

This article was originally posted on the Open Spaces Learning Website
Leslie Bennett designs and delivers powerful programs for corporate clients that shift cultures, improve results, and change the future. She specializes in creating and customizing programs that meet the needs of each client.  To learn more about Leslie please visit Open Spaces Learning or follow Leslie on twitter

Heather Shapter has partnered with leaders in business, not-for-profit, government and academia all over the world to further her commitment to end poverty for vulnerable populations.  She is a sought after speaker and facilitator of strategic culture-shifting programs that galvanize the corporate sector to lead from ‘profit with purpose’ – good for the world; good for business. To learn more about Heather please visit Open Spaces Learning