Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities have essentially become non-negotiable for businesses in recent years, especially those that wish to attract millennial and Gen Z workers and customers. This past August, Entrepreneur magazine reported that 70% of investors want to spend money with companies that align with their values, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought CSR efforts to the forefront of people’s minds.

Companies and consumers alike are thinking more about diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with eco-friendly efforts and philanthropic causes. More than ever, attendees want to support events that have a give-back component.

And it goes well beyond just monetary donations. Hosting a CSR-focused activity on-site can also be a great way to showcase company values, create a fun team-building experience, and of course, encourage their employees and/or event guests to give back to the world around them.

Here are some top tips for taking part at on-site CSR-focused events.

1. Find causes your employees are excited about.
If you want to take your CSR activities beyond the superficial, it’s important to focus on causes that your employees or even your customers actually care about—and that may require some crowd-sourcing. 

Have team members volunteer to help brainstorm and give feedback on initiatives rather than handing them an assignment—while, of course, being mindful of assigning unpaid labor.

Determine what matters most to your staff and where they want the organization to concentrate. Even though it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take into account everyone’s suggestions, your staff will take pleasure in finding out what their other employees appreciate.” Informa’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo uses CSR programs to connect with local communities. 

2. Keep it local, and try to relate the giving back to the work that your company actually does.
Focusing on local causes will activate real passion among your staff. Planting more trees in a park that many of your workers frequent or raising funds to install solar panels at a school that many employees send their kids to are two great examples in this vein.

The more participants you have—and the more enthusiastic they are—the better your results are going to be, both for the earth and for your company’s image.

Try tying the cause to your company’s main mission. In August, skincare and makeup brand Shiseido teamed up with the World Surf League and the nonprofit Wildcoast for a beach cleanup, part of the ongoing Shiseido Blue Project initiative that launched in 2019. At this year’s event, actor Ian Somerhalder was on hand to both pick up trash and also explain the need for ocean wildlife and beach preservation.

3. Lean into the team-building aspects—and consider implementing some healthy competition.
CSR can be a great way to bond a team, something that’s been top of mind as employees return to offices and consumers return to in-person events. 

As more people are recovering from post-pandemic stress, they are more eager to help others out and reconnect with one another in a fun way.

You can place the attendees into teams and make it into a competition, with a prize to up the motivation too.

4. Use real data to show the impact your company is having.
With so many causes to support, it can be easy to forget that small steps can have an impact. There needs to be a quantifiable goal the company is working towards or a way to see the impact efforts are making. For example, at Sakara, everyone was gifted reusable coffee mugs. Every time someone went out to get a coffee and used one, they got a coffee mug sticker on a poster as a representation of a disposable cup that was not used. Employees could see the cups tally up as a way to measure the impact of an effort.

5. Bring your consumers and clients in on the mission, too.

CSR initiatives should also be accessible to your customers too. When a company is able to engage both employees and customers in their mission in a way that feels authentic to what the company actually does, the whole story around CSR is more believable and drives more consumer and employee trust.

6. Pay attention to the causes most impacting the world right now.

Hot topics right now include environmental damage, poverty, diversity and inclusion, and women’s rights—with sustainability emerging as one of the most popular CSR causes, our experts say. For example, Sandra Rios, co-owner and director of client services at the Phoenix-based marketing firm Buzz Agency, likes to offer a fun twist on traditional sustainability-focused activities by highlighting the power of upcycling. 

“With upcycling, you try to create something new out of something old, without reducing the original product to its component parts. By doing so, previously discarded objects are given a second chance,” she says. “Everyone can benefit from the motivation, excitement, and originality of an upcycling workshop. It’s even more enjoyable when everyone involved is working toward a common goal, such as making gifts to give to underprivileged kids or decorative items to give to elderly people in nursing homes.”

She continues, “Participants can gain knowledge, aid in trash reduction, and become closer to one another all through one easy exercise.” 

7. Keep the initiative going over multiple years.
Once a cause has been chosen, commit to it over a consistent period of time rather than jumping from cause to cause. Over a longer period of time, your customers and employees alike will have a chance to really feel integrated and involved in the company mission. Soon, your company starts to be synonymous with the mission, which is great for building trust and loyalty to the business overall.

Consider an ongoing event series for a specific cause or charity partner. This drives maximum impact while reducing excessive planning—you create a framework and then replicate it over and over versus reinventing the wheel every time. Employees aren’t stupid, so if CSR events feel wasteful and performative, they won’t resonate.

Employees want to feel like they and their company are making a real impact, rather than just checking a box. 

Best Events Productions is organizing two upcoming events in 2023 dedicated to environmental awareness causes. Check them out HERE


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