By Jenn Hudder, CEO, Kitestring Creative Branding Studio
As we look into the final months of our 10 YEARS 10 MONTHS 10 HEARTS, we wanted to share some of our reflections and learnings on taking on our first official Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative this past year.
First of all, what is Corporate Social Responsibility (or Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Sustainability or any of the other terms that float around out there)?
As defined by Investopedia – “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practising corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society including economic, social, and environmental. To engage in CSR means that, in the normal course of business, a company is operating in ways that enhance society and the environment, instead of contributing negatively to it.”
As a small business with limited resources, we can honestly say that this may have seemed like a lot to bite off when we first started talking about creating a program.
However, as we got closer and closer to celebrating our tenth year in business, we knew that there were more meaningful ways to celebrate than parties and the like. Supporting our community has always been at the heart of our daily lives here but formalizing it seemed like a very big undertaking.
Luckily for us, our colleague, Jane Allison of Dovetail Community, was more than happy to assist us in establishing a program that would ultimately be the perfect fit for our business.
Jane began the process with education around what CSR really means and all of the different forms that it can take. We may not have the resources of Starbucks or other big brands, but we can still consciously decide how Kitestring can be a good corporate citizen. We knew that a “charity of choice” approach wasn’t right for us. As a small team, one of the things we value most is our tight-knit work family. “CSR is really about bridging the gap between profit and purpose,” Jane says. “It has to authentically reflect the organization’s values to be impactful. Kitestring has always had a big corporate heart and my quest with 10 Hearts was to reflect that in a way that resonated with Kitestringers AND the community it serves.”
Jane really spent time learning about – not just the owners – but every member of our team: what was important to them, what made them invested in our business, and how our business could also support the areas that were important to them. She tied together the concepts of Kitestring – entrepreneurship, creative freedom and community building – with the 10th anniversary and the 10 staff members. Over the course of one year (less the holiday season), each employee would showcase a different community project and involve the other employees, sharing it all via social media.
With this knowledge, and inspired by our redefined core values (Joy, Craft, Heart, Wisdom and Sparkle), we developed our 10 Hearts Program
“In celebrating 10 years of connecting humans, each of the 10 Kitestringers will choose a community initiative that is close to their heart and each month, all hands will be on deck to serve that particular activity. Before, during and afters will be shared via photo, video and social media. Most importantly, the spirit that built Kitestring will be shared with followers and will impact 10 important causes. Hearts beating together, toward a strong community.”
When these words were forged, well….guys, it was emotional. As an entrepreneur, this is what it’s all about. Our time and talents could extend even beyond our clients and touch organizations that needed our help. It has been absolutely wonderful to learn more about our staff members, what’s important to them, why they chose their initiative and lend a hand in supporting them with something close to their heart. That’s how you celebrate 10 years in business!
So, here are our Top 5 Tips as you consider how to incorporate a CSR program into your own business:
- Think Differently
We definitely had some preconceived notions about what CSR entailed and that cutting large cheques was part of it. That’s why, at the onset, I was so leary of formalizing it. As a small business, our financial resources can be limited. Spending the time to really learn about what’s important to our team allowed us to create a program that made an impact by giving our time and talents.
- Involve Everyone
Don’t direct the initiative. Open the conversation up with everyone. Care to learn about what is important to them. Top-down directive on a CSR will surely lead to limited investment from your team.
- Plan for It
The best intentions can quickly slip away without a plan in place. Jane assisted us in creating the framework around our 10 Hearts program: what it would look like, how we would share our stories, and how we would provide our staff with time to dedicate to their initiative.
- Integrate into Your Everyday
We chat about the 10 Hearts program every day at our morning huddle. The active lead shares updates with the team, asks for the help they need and we brainstorm ideas on how we can best leverage our talents and resources to create an impact for the chosen organization.
- Have Fun
Our 10 Hearts program has benefited our business just as much as the organizations we’ve partnered with throughout the year. Kitestringers have teamed up and worked side-by-side with each other outside of our typical work structure. We’ve cooked together, laughed together, and bonded together.
Remember, your CSR program is a living element of your organization. It can (and should) change and evolve over time to match the dynamic of your individual business and community. If you need some help to get the ball rolling, I would highly recommend bringing someone on board to ask the good questions and help you to see your business through a slightly different lens.
We strengthened our bonds with our community and our culture as a team as a result and Kitestring is so much better for it.
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