CSR Strategy

How to Implement a CSR Strategy for your Bank or CU

Most articles about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tell you to implement a CSR strategy but don’t give any insight into how a bank or credit union should go about the process. 

Implementing an effective CSR strategy means looping the whole team into real conversations about:

  • What your leadership team cares about
  • How you want to positively impact the community around you or the world at large
  • How much time and effort you are willing to invest in looking inward in order to create impact outward

At Newcleus, we are in the process of developing our own CSR strategy and we want to share that process with you to help you navigate your own Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

What Does It Mean to Engage in CSR?

Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is the impact an organization makes on: 

  • Society
  • Environment
  • The economy

To engage in CSR “means that a company should self-regulate its actions and be socially accountable to its customers, stakeholders, and the world at large.”

If you’re completely new to Corporate Social Responsibility, please visit this blog post where we further dive into CSR and why it matters for your organization today.

Implementing CSR Within Your Organization

How to Start

The first step in implementing your own CSR strategy is to gather and review company information. Here, you must identify four components:

  • Key business strategies currently in play
  • Organization goals
  • Objectives
  • Desired key results

CSR Strategy

The Importance of Inclusion

“The freedom to dream and execute CSR projects that matter to them” makes a big difference.” —Johnson & Johnson

When it comes to crafting a CSR strategy, it is crucial that you involve your team in your efforts. In fact, research shows that the most effective strategies for executing CSR come from your employees.

“My personal approach is to always begin with what matters most to my team,” says Debra Porter, Director of Corporate Affairs and CSR at Newcleus. “Understanding what matters to my team makes it much easier to implement a program that reflects what they care about.”

Keep in mind that:

  • Ideas from team members should be supported and integrated into CSR projects.
  • CSR efforts are employee development opportunities for team members.

After all, your CSR strategy will be more effective if you have buy-in from your team members.

Consider Key Stakeholders

Analyzing your key stakeholder landscape is equally as important as including your employees in your CSR strategy.

Debra Porter puts it as such: “CSR helps good ideas spread while having a positive impact on ROI. It’s stakeholder capitalism in all its splendor. Good CSR programs bring about a tangible, meaningful impact on our world. Through brand affinity, the team and organization rise.”

Begin by asking yourselves the following questions:

  • Who? Who are the other stakeholders in your organization? Build detailed customer personas to understand their passions and challenges.
  • What? What do your stakeholders care about? What matters to them most?
  • Where? Spearhead efforts and identify organizations or causes that may be related to the business, or what your employees feel strongly about.

Align Business Objectives & Activity with Customer Concerns

The next step is to build programming that addresses the interests of your customers.

At Newcleus, we use three steps to shape this process: Develop, evaluate, and identify. Here’s more on each.

  • Develop: Develop an “all-encompassing consideration” of your customer and the issues your key stakeholders are most interested in.
  • Evaluate: Evaluate the issues your key stakeholders deem the most important.
  • Identify: Identify and engage in the opportunities that exist to address or solve those issues and concerns.

CSR Pitfalls to Be Mindful Of

Instead of blindly sending money to a completely unrelated organization, find a nonprofit organization, or project within your community, that your company believes in.

Charity Navigator is a website that rates charities and non-profit organizations by transparency as well as financial health and accountability from information on their IRS Form 990. The website is a great resource for your bank to find local nonprofits in your area, while also ensuring that you are supporting credible organizations.

Do not use CSR opportunities solely for marketing purposes or to make your organization look a ‘certain way.’ Running a CSR campaign as a quick marketing scheme can backfire greatly. Think about CSR efforts authentically with your organization’s spirit at the forefront of your strategy.

Your CSR Roadmap

For those who don’t love reading lengthy blog articles, here’s a quick roadmap of tips and tricks to developing your CSR strategy.

  • Assess current efforts (financial and in-kind*) through the “business strategy lens.”
    • Collaborate with key internal stakeholders.
    • Conduct oversight to ensure compliance with existing goals and protocols.
    • Seek potential emerging issues.
  • Shore up any potential challenges with legal counsel.
    • Address challenges and possible risks.
  • Establish a new framework (including policies and action) for donations.
    • Make recommendations to prioritize efforts aligned with business objectives.
  • Execute new policies “guardrails” and programs.
    • Assure consistency with the new strategic framework.
    • Monitor donation effect, gather insight.
  • Broadcast positive impact including social media, web content, calendars, community publications, newsletters, handbooks, and brochures.

We know that CSR can sound overwhelming, and if we’re being truthful, it is. Developing an effective CSR strategy is hard work, but we’re here to show you the ropes.

At Newcleus, we’re here to support you and your CSR efforts, including how to make sustainability a central goal at your bank or credit union. Contact Debra Porter, Director of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility at Newcleus, to learn more about how to implement CSR, from the inside out.

*According to The Ford Family Foundation, ‘in-kind contributions” are defined as “services, material, equipment, or labor committed or received at a conservative value that would otherwise be paid from the project budget…. [Goods] or services provided instead of cash.”