Measuring Corporate Social Activities Responsibly
In recent years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become somewhat of a buzzword in corporate circles. Across the world, businesses are increasingly seeking to take broader ownership of their actions beyond their legal responsibilities, focusing on aspects such as the environment, their employees or the wider social community.
The UAE is no exception to this, and the concept of social giving is arguably embedded in regional traditions (such as through Zakat). In an effort to further formalize responsible behavior, the Ministry of Economy announced a series of 11 initiatives in June 2017, designed to inspire further social consciousness in the business community. Although the initiatives remain voluntary for firms operating in the private sector, opting-in is likely to result in certain privileges, reinforcing the notion that “the more you give, the more you receive”.
In order for these actions to have lasting, long-term results on the community, companies should take a moment to reflect on what kind of activity they should engage in as well as seek to measure the impact of their actions.
The introduction of CSR activities for some companies may be a completely novel concept. For such entities, the question of “where do we begin” is most pressing. Qualitative research can help find the most suitable cause, charity or community partner and help the company avoid being locked into unhelpful relationships that lack synergy in the long run. It is worth considering testing out consumer and staff views about possible partners first or activities that they deem most relevant given the firm’s industry and capabilities.
For other companies, the CSR Law may simply result in a formalization of its present activities. Reporting CSR activities provides a good indication of the potential impact of carried out initiatives. However, for firms that are genuinely seeking to make a positive impact, looking into further detail regarding the effectiveness of these programs is recommended. As an example, one may simply measure the impact of an awareness campaign by looking at the number of people or entities reached. However, in order to gain a better understanding into the effectiveness of the program (and to refine future programs), it helps to dig deeper. Three, six or twelve months after the program, how much do the respondents remember? Have the lessons actually been implemented in a lasting or meaningful way? How can the program be improved, etc.?
CSR initiatives can serve as a powerful tool for good. Firms can choose to half-heartedly carry out such activities or they can adopt the same approach they adopt for their business activities- seeking to understand, measure and improve their social actions. Research can serve as a helpful tool in getting such answers and hopefully improving the effectiveness of CSR strategies.