Getting Started with Corporate Social Responsibility
By Dan Raudonis
At The Clearing, we often talk about being intentional in our work. When I started as a Consultant in Fall 2017, I rolled my eyes at what I saw as consultant-y jargon-for-jargon’s sake. But over the past year, I’ve come to appreciate the precision of “intentionality” and the message it sends about who we are, and how we approach our work. Whether it’s reminding others or ourselves to focus on the fewest, most important priorities, or to take a minute to BE, “intentionality” is a call to pause, think critically, and then act with confidence and precision.
We believe that taking an intentional approach to problem solving and culture is an effective means to instill lasting change. Over the past several months, The Clearing has sought to bring this intentional rigor to our efforts to create an effective, meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. Previously, our efforts at CSR had been more ad-hoc and loosely coordinated.
Through the establishment of a formal CSR initiative, we are more intentionally focused on understanding the impacts of our work on the communities in which we operate, and to ensure that such impacts are maximally positive and sustainable.
We’ve identified three initial areas of focus for the initiative: volunteerism, pro bono, and environmental sustainability.
Through our efforts to establish and grow our CSR initiative, we’ve also established three guiding principles that have allowed us to maintain our focus on and intention of striving for positive outcomes for our community. They are:
- Discover and fortify connections
- Foster a culture of social responsibility
- Learn, adjust, and improve
Here’s how our guiding principles are showing up in our approach to CSR at The Clearing:
Discover and Fortify Connections
When we launched the CSR initiative, we didn’t start from scratch. Our staff has spent years working in the community through pro bono efforts with non-profit partners and through coordinated and ad-hoc volunteer efforts. So, as we have worked to focus and coordinate our CSR efforts and strategy for 2019, the CSR team has first started by understanding our staffs’ areas of passion, expertise, existing connections, and have experience in creating CSR initiatives.
Foster a Culture of Social Responsibility
Beyond our connections to the community, we’ve also looked internally to ask ourselves questions about how CSR can be woven into the fiber of our collective being. We are working to ensure that our CULTURE encourages behaviors that reflect our commitments to the community.
As a starting point, we’ve been incorporating CSR activities into some of our existing company traditions and efforts. For example, in early December, we organized a supply drive for a local DC organization to benefit individuals experiencing homelessness. Rather than making this a separate and isolated activity, we sought to coordinate the supply drive in conjunction with our annual holiday potluck. Looking ahead to 2019, we’re planning to continue leveraging our company’s traditions as a means of further incorporating CSR into our way of being.
Learn, Adjust, and Improve
We recognize that, despite our best plans and intentions, some of our efforts will be more impactful than others. But, rather than settle for “good enough,” we will use these moments as an opportunity to continue learning, adapting, and improving. For that reason, we’re keen to gather data on, and learn from, our baseline impacts and how our efforts are influencing them. In our environmental sustainability efforts, for example, we’ve begun the process of gathering data about our trash and recycling rates. We will use this starting point as a basis for comparison to understand how our ensuing interventions—better signage, education, and behavior change—are having an impact.
In the spirit of that learning, we’ve eager to hear from you. What have you seen in your own experience with volunteerism, pro bono, or sustainability that has worked well? What intentionality have you seen others bring to their CSR efforts? Please reach out to me—I would love to hear from you!