Encouraging your employer to support your CSR cause

By Harper Banks

You may be passionate about several causes in your community, such as wildlife conservation or assisting the elderly. However, many local projects struggle to secure adequate funding.   

We find out how you can encourage your employer to allocate part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget towards your favourite causes. But first, we find out more about what CSR is. 

Tip: While helping others matters, make sure you take care of yourself – save for your future.

What is corporate social responsibility?

Danie van Niekerk, executive head of financial services at Indwe Blue Star, says that CSR involves a business being socially accountable to the general public, among other entities.

“This relates to philanthropic ventures that are based on the company’s values, and it has a positive impact on the economy, environment, and community,” says Van Niekerk.

In South Africa, there are many outstanding CSR campaigns, including, for example, the following.

  • Standard Bank has committed to dedicating at least 1% of its annual profits towards its CSR causes. In 2010, this amounted to over R 132 million.
  • SAB Miller has selected 10 sustainable development priorities, including human rights, waste, packaging, and responsible drinking.
  • BHP Billiton has set up a special trust called BHP Billiton Development Trust South Africa, which is dedicated to its CSR projects.

South African companies are not legally obliged to undertake CSR projects. However, companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are held accountable by a “comply or explain” clause under the auspices of the King Report, which means that they need to either pursue CSR projects or explain why they won’t. This results in the majority of businesses participating.

“If a company participates in CSR projects, it also has a positive impact on employees’ morale, as they can feel proud of the difference their company makes,” says Van Niekerk.

How to encourage your employer to help your cause

If there’s a community project that’s close to your heart, you may be able to motivate your employer to get involved as part of their CSR commitment.

“When you pitch your idea, you need to consider the industry in which your employer is operating, as well as their views on the kind of community project you’re putting forward,” says Van Niekerk.

Say, for example, you’re passionate about preserving Table Mountain, and your company is in the tech industry. You can suggest a virtual reality event, where attendees can virtually experience nature, and the proceeds can be donated to the Table Mountain National Park.

“When you present your idea, you need to be clear about what the money you raise will achieve, and how it will make a difference to the community or environment,” says Van Niekerk. In some cases, the impact may not come from money, but rather the time offered to your cause.”

He suggests pointing out the benefits to your employer, such as being able to promote their goodwill via a press release, videos on their social media accounts, etc.

Ultimately, Van Niekerk says that you should stick to the heart of why your chosen cause is important to you and how your employer’s contributions will make a real difference.

“It’s about the ability to change lives. The message to your employer needs to reflect how it can be done and the impact it will have,” says Van Niekerk.

Planning for your retirement will enable you to support your chosen charities into your old age – find out more about this investment type.

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