It is not only consumers; it is all of your stakeholders who want to know what your business is doing to be socially and environmentally responsible. This influencing factor has the potential to build or break down your reputation; therefore, having authentic ‘Corporate Social Investment’ (CSI) initiatives is key to sustainable growth in any organisation.

The latest King IV report, launched by the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) at the end of last year aims to reinforce principles of good corporate governance, ethical leadership, and sustainable development. The report starts off by speaking about a ‘changed world’1. An influencing drive for the change in corporate governance is climate change, as well as the environmental impacts which also affect people. This points to the fact that social and environmental issues are intertwined can never be treated separately. The quality of the environment and the resources it has to offer has a direct influence on the quality of life of the people living there. Businesses are also a part of society and therefore are in the advantageous position to have a positive influence towards change that addresses social and environmental issues.

“CSI, purely as a marketing attempt is not a good strategy. It is imperative to have an ongoing investment towards positive change,” says Chris Bischoff, research and sustainability specialist at Reputation Matters.

In this day and age, your average consumer is much more tuned in on specific environmental and social issues. Mentioned in King IV, social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, is creating a world of radical transparency, especially when it comes to being transparent about environmental performance. More and more institutions and businesses are getting caught out, especially on social media, for not ‘walking their environmental talk’. This is known as ‘greenwashing’, saying that you have a responsibility towards reducing your environmental impact or footprint, however certain business decisions and actions suggest otherwise. This is why it is so important to have an authentic approach to your CSI initiatives.

“Not only does it pay dividends for the environment and the well-being of people, having an authentic commitment to environmental and social responsibility makes business sense. You open up the opportunity of becoming a strategic alliance. People and businesses want to be involved with other organisations that are socially and environmentally responsible, our research has shown this,” adds Bischoff.

CSI is a two way investment; in one sense it means investing in uplifting the quality of living of a society, and in another sense investing in that area of business that contributes to your corporate reputation. Having well-thought CSI initiatives aligned to your organisation’s vision and values will encourage employees to embody this responsibility, reflecting in their actions and decisions, and most likely taking this culture home from work.

If you would like to what people think about your corporate social and environmental responsibility, read more about Reputation Matters ‘Sustainability check’, a research tool which provides insight into stakeholders’ perceptions on your social and environmental responsibility.

1Institute of Directors Southern Africa (2016). King IV, Report of corporate governance South Africa.