Beyond the borders: challenges and opportunities with global CSR

Global CSR challenges and tactics

We live in an interconnected world. In any given day, you may talk to a colleague across the hall and later speak with someone several time zones away. The challenge for companies is how to design global CSR programs that provide those employees in far away locations the same opportunities as their U.S. peers .

The challenges faced in a global CSR program

CSR managers say one of the greatest challenges they face is creating global programs with defined metrics and demonstrating ROI on these international programs.

The challenges of running a global CSR program are vastly different than a program limited to U.S. locations. Customs and cultures are different. Expectations are different. Furthermore, finding reputable nonprofit partners across the globe is challenging. Certainly, there isn’t a one-size fits all type program. Global CSR programs must establish a standard framework while allowing for flexibility in implementation.

Standards and guidelines to ensure global CSR effectiveness

By nature, global programs must be customized by country. There are, however,  some standards and guidelines that can be established to help managers answer the questions about effectiveness and ROI.

The four traditional metrics companies use to gather CSR data include:

  1. Total contributions including cash and in-kind donations
  2. Percentage of employees participating in company giving and volunteering programs
  3. Number of volunteer hours performed
  4. The number of nonprofits impacted through financial contributions and volunteer services

These are great metrics and a good starting point. CECP offers some additional metrics that help shape the story of your company’s involvement. Their suggestions include looking at total giving as a percent of revenues and total giving per employee. These metrics can be broken out by country and compared globally.   

Key CSR targets

More and more companies focus their giving around causes. Doing so, allows them to report on giving in each of the cause areas. Another tool is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched a few years ago by the UN Foundation. The SDGs, officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with established targets for each of the goals.

If you aren’t sure where to focus, the SDGs provide clear goals and targets. What you focus on is defined by your company and what aligns with your mission, value, and business objectives.

The key is to set targets of what you want to achieve and the impact you want to have. This can be done by supporting one or more of the SDGs and reporting on your impact to Agenda 2030. It is important to be authentic, but be bold and then hold yourself accountable.

The importance of global charity partners

While it is important to have a strong partnership with your nonprofit partners in the United States, it is even more important to have an equally strong relationship with your global partners. Work together with these partners to define the outcomes you hope to achieve with your programs. Additionally, identify the key metrics that you want to track and measure progress against.

For example, if you are involved in education and employees serve as volunteer mentors, you can ask for metrics around the number of students involved in the mentoring programs and how those students performed on standardized tests. How did your financial and employee commitment move the needle on student performance?

Balance quantitative data with CSR stories

While, statistics are important and vital to showcasing your company’s CSR involvement, be sure to balance statistics with storytelling. In your CSR report, highlight nonprofits or individuals who your financial and employee engagement programs support. Stories will add the color commentary to your CSR report. In a very personal way these stories demonstrate the difference you are making.

Today, very few companies question the need to report on CSR activities. The days of hiding good works under a cloak of secrecy are over. Expectations from stakeholders are that companies will be involved and will demonstrate how they are making a difference. This story can only be told when companies have defined the metrics and outcomes that are important to them. In order to do this, you must set up a system and the tools necessary to gather the data you need to communicate your involvement and commitment.  

This post was authored by Steve Greenhalgh, our Managing Director of CSR Strategy.