Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Support Purpose, Profit

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Identifying practices that are both beneficial for the community and profitable for the company can serve as a challenging endeavor for lenders looking to better their businesses. However, a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy may be the answer.

Revenues can increase through a rise in sales due to improved corporate reputation, employee retention can grow, and CSR events can serve as a great recruiting tool for customers and future employees, Scenario Adebesin, senior vice president and director of corporate social responsibility at Fifth Third Bank, told Auto Finance Excellence.

Some lenders might see implementing CSR strategies in a large company with thousands of employees as a challenge. However, Fifth Third Bank has 19,000 employees that “want to volunteer and engage with the community outside of their day job,” Adebesin said.

Also, CSR is key to enhancing lenders’ bottom line — to make a profit — and the “social side” of a company plays a significant role, Adebesin said.

As the perception of CSR initiatives has shifted from an add-on practice to a critical business function, Adebesin outlines the top ways companies can also benefit from engaging in socially responsible activities.

Set Goals

“Go with a bottom-top approach,” Adebesin advises. Meaning, ask your employees how they want to engage with the community and bring those suggestions up the corporate ladder. “The best goals come from our employees,” Adebesin said.

One of the most efficient ways to measure employee feedback is through a survey, she said. Once you find out how your employees think, “use that feedback to develop,” Adebesin said. It gives a company the ability to connect employee needs to volunteer activity.

Goals should be realistic, and the company should set pre-determined goals on how it wants its CSR strategy to function. For example, deciding how many volunteer hours you want employees to meet or how much money you want to set aside for philanthropy.

Keep it Local

Philanthropy is at the center of CSR practices, and it is more useful to target the needs of a particular community. “You don’t want to spread your peanut butter too thin,” Adebesin said. “Focus on fewer causes, but make a deep impact.”

Making a significant impact on the community can be done by having branches of your business volunteer with specific causes in the area. Look at the culture and determine which philanthropy is the best to participate.

Employee and Customer Engagement

It is vital for firms to be strategic around employee retention, which will help spur new recruitment as well.

“When people look for where they want to work or a business they want to be involved in, they look at CSR,” Adebesin said. “You stay in business because of customers and without engaged employees, your bottom line isn’t there.”

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