8. Simple steps to build your CSR strategy

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8.1. Personal motivation for CSR and sustainable development

The majority of people are not only taking responsibility at work because they would otherwise loose their job. Normally, responsibility is also important to employees and managers for various personal reasons. Some people's motivation may be based on unselfish motifs such as idealism or altruism or on the notion that "it is simply the right thing to do". But individual advantages are equally suitable at motivating people to deal with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development.

In companies it is particularly the managers and employees in charge of coordinating CSR who are instrumental in constantly advancing the topic of sustainable corporate development. Just like with any other professional goals, setbacks, interpersonal problems and "lean times" may also emerge in connection with CSR. Therefore, knowing the personal motivation in terms of CSR helps the individual successfully mastering in particular difficult situations.

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8.2. Analysing strengths and opportunities of CSR in the company

In small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), responsible corporate management is often part of the business routine without explicitly being called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and without making strategic use of it. In these cases, the analysis of CSR potentials represents a first step to quickly obtain an overview of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a CSR strategy. The so-called SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) is a widely used tool for strategic corporate planning. It helps the management describe the current situation based on the strengths and weaknesses of the company and derive future opportunities and risks thereof. The results of a SWOT analysis for CSR are the basis for specific targets in strategic management.

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8.3. Benchmarking: Own CSR potentials in a comparison between the industries

In order for a company to distinguish itself from the competition with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), it should be considered attractive and exemplary by customers, employees and other stakeholders compared to the competing enterprises. A company can use an analysis of the industry and environment to examine the CSR of its competitors and set benchmarks for the comparison and measurability of its own CSR strategy within the industry (benchmarking). Collecting and evaluating media reports about their own company and competitors in the industry represents a practical approach without the need for spending external costs. In addition, it is possible to determine trends, social, corporate and ecological topics in the region of the company's domicile. Based on this, it is possible to identify CSR aspects in the public perception which the company may not have considered in the past. The goal of benchmarking is to better adapt the CSR strategy to framework conditions and perspectives of the future of the industry and the regional location.

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8.4. CSR strategy kick-off under a converse view

The "Instruction for being unsustainable" is the converse view of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of a company. This kind of approach to a CSR strategy attempts to make the topic sustainability more specific in dialogue with employees or the extended circle of stakeholders. It is designed to prevent requirements lacking in practical relevance and having an abstract effect. The parties involved gradually develop a comprehensive basis for the company's sustainability policy based on the "instruction for being unsustainable". This provides clarity about what sustainability really means for the company and the employees involved (stakeholders).

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8.5. Stakeholder-dialogue at the "CSR world cafe"

A company should integrate employees into its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on different levels. Only then can a CSR strategy be perceived tangible and lively in the entire company and appear authentic toward the inside and outside. The "CSR word cafe" is designed to integrate a company's employees into the development of CSR in a "coffee-house-like" atmosphere. The creativity method "World Cafe" makes collective creativity visible and usable among employees for the CSR strategists in the company. The "CSR world cafe" is designed to initiate the exchange and further development of know-how and ideas via several rounds of discussion. This explorative process not only yields new insights, but also promotes the employees' identification when dealing with the topic CSR in the company. In addition, the method is also suitable for a comprehensive stakeholder dialogue of the company. The focus should be on a clearly formulated CSR topic for the "CSR world cafe" and each of its sequels.

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8.6. Implementing CSR in small and medium-sized enterprises

Companies are not always run by managers and business administrators who are trained for strategic changes in the organisational development. In smaller and owner-operated enterprises, experts of the own profession are usually at the same time assuming the role of the manager. Their approach of managing the company is based on experience values and "common sense". In small or traditional enterprises, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is rarely a quick response to daily challenges and the order situation of the next months. Implementing CSR in small and medium sized enterprises requires a "policy of small steps". Smaller enterprises and the self-employed have a significant advantage compared to large enterprises: It is relatively easy to integrate the entrepreneurial personality's moral concepts into work processes, products and services.

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8.7. CSR in regional networks

Companies and communities are facing similar and in part common challenges at their location which have a significant impact on the sustainability of a region. This concerns for example the attractiveness of the location for qualified workers, professional perspectives for young adults or amenities for families. Organised in regional networks, companies can pool their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), allowing them to contribute to structural solutions in the region aside from pursuing their own selective and project-related CSR measures. Especially small enterprises stand to benefit much more on location when working jointly in networks. Different initiatives can represent good options for these enterprises to participate effectively in CSR and to contribute their own entrepreneurial power to the sustainable regional development with manageable expenses.

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8.8. Competitions and awards for CSR

The nomination for and recognition in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) competition honours responsible corporate management and often generates a high media interest. The majority of regional and national CSR competitions are also geared toward small and medium-sized enterprises. The broad public awareness and scope of communication associated with CSR awards is a special opportunity for these enterprises to increase their acceptance, reputation and name recognition. Rewards awarded for social action and CSR in the company are designed to highlight how the economy gets involved on behalf of society and to convince other companies that social commitment is worthwhile.

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8.9. Organising and personalising CSR in the company – Interview with an expert

The successful and durable implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into companies requires organisational structures that govern scopes of duties, responsibilities and quality assurance. The integration of CSR into the core business poses individual challenges for every company. At the same time, the CSR management within the company becomes more professional, making CSR to an ever more prominent competitive factor. Lothar Hartmann, director of sustainability management at the mail order business memo AG which received multiple CSR awards is reporting about the daily operational routine of CSR and sustainability management. Background information about CSR at memo AG is presented in chapter 7 by means of a case study.

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8.10. Advice and support with CSR – Interview with an expert

How much advice and service do companies require for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? Dr. Norbert Taubken has developed CSR for AOL Germany at the beginning of the century. After pioneering the CSR consulting business, Dr. Taubken is now head of the consulting firm Scholz & Friends Reputation under the umbrella of the internationally active communication agency Scholz & Friends. Below is a summary of his advice from an interview with the expert: "A company should always consider CSR as a topic, as whatever they hope to move or change - and support it with the matching tools."