Companies no longer need to make a strong business case for investing in CSR. Instead, CSR has become a starting point and more companies are developing around it.
Jos Reinhoudt, Senior Knowledge Manager for MVO Nederland on CSR practices, storytelling, authenticity and real values.
The CSR in Your Business Case; creating real value and be authentic
Times have changed and so has business.
In the past, companies asked: How will I earn my money back if I invest in sustainability? What is the ‘Business Case’ for my Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? In other words, they wanted to make sure there was a compelling argument for investing in sustainability efforts.
Today, it is the other way around. Companies no longer need to make a strong business case for investing in CSR. Instead, CSR has become a starting point and more companies are developing around it.
Focus on the real value
Jos Reinhoudt, Senior Knowledge Manager for MVO Nederland and Councillor for the Green Party in Nijmegen, observes that small and large businesses – and more importantly, consumers – are now focusing on real value of a product. The real value of a product includes both financial and non-financial elements, such as helping people become better global citizens, contributing to local communities, or helping people live healthier lives.
Entrepreneurs can no longer simply market and sell their products or services. Instead, Reinhoudt recommends that entrepreneurs look at the societal value of their business from the beginning of development and include sustainability into their general offering: “If you have a good product for society and the value is real, you will definitely make a profit.” There is no need to worry about the business case.
Tell a compelling story
Having an excellent product that brings value to society is just the first step. Start-ups must also have a compelling story, and no story is complete without a strong sustainability component.
Be careful, however, not to over-sell your offering. Reinhoudt warns: “We’ve learned from the Trend Report research that it isn’t a good idea to explain repeatedly how good or sustainable your product is. That will lead consumers to doubt the truth. It’s better to simply tell the story and embed its real value in the narrative.”
Entrepreneurs that offer authentically sustainable products or services with really good stories, will find that their products are more appealing. These elements will also make it easier to find funding.
So if you are a sustainable entrepreneur, with a product that has real value and an authentic story, don’t worry about developing a strong business case for your CSR, because you CSR will already have a compelling business case to sell.
(For those who read Dutch, you can follow Jos Reinhoudt’s blog here.)