Being a good corporate neighbor
A good corporate citizen and neighbor comes in various forms and degrees of success. Employees and customers are evaluating their opinion and support of companies based on their total societal impact (TSI), a culmination of benefits to society and a company’s products, services, operations, core capabilities, and activities. Companies seeking long-term success must consider more than just internal operations, but how the organization interacts and impacts the communities they serve, as well as the communities that employees live in.
The philosophy of placemaking is a “multifaceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces which capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.” Applying placemaking to your organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program enhances community integration and sustainability.
People view companies (large or small) with a larger magnifying glass than they do individuals because companies are in the public space making impacts to the community and economy that must be managed thoughtfully to create a sustainable business community relationship.
This process starts with connecting and building trust with the community. This is essential for new and existing businesses as the people they employ and serve in the community want to know how the company operations and products/services may impact them. Balancing corporate and shareholder needs with those of the community requires attention to not only environmental impact issues, but economic and gender inequality issues, and social well-being.
Creating a positive and supportive community that reflects an authentic partnership with the people and neighboring businesses will enhance a company’s brand image and awareness, attracting quality talent and increasing sales.
In addition, companies can attract more quality and long-term employees as many people evaluate their potential employers by how they contribute to society. Millennials in particular, the fastest growing segment of the population, want businesses to have a positive impact on the community and offer opportunities for them to contribute to that societal well-being. This creates a positive work environment and reduces turnover of employees that are invested in the company’s community involvement that goes above and beyond their career aspirations. Integrating environmental and social practices into your company’s business objectives can lead to higher company valuations and attract investor interest when needed.
Being a good corporate neighbor is an evolving process. Establishing sustainable processes and programs requires preparation, evaluation and adjustments to align with societal evolution and changing community needs.
Get out and meet the people in the community. Find out what neighbors think and want before presuming to act in their best interest. Conduct internal meetings and surveys with employees to gain insights into what they are interested in and advise, and conduct community town hall meetings or attend chamber meetings. Listen to both local businesses and community members to gain insights into how your company can better serve the community while providing your products and services in the most efficient manner.
Encourage employees to share their leadership skills with local nonprofit organizations by serving on boards and committees. Provide time-off and flexible work schedules that allow for employees to attend meetings and events, and share their volunteer passion and stories. Promoting their work for nonprofit organizations elevates their contributions and is positive branding opportunities for your company.
An additional benefit of employees serving these organizations is that their authentic connections with their community can attract further business and customers for your company.
Seek and establish partnerships with community groups or charities that reflect your company’s core values. Provide either financial support or employee volunteerism that can contribute to the group or charity objectives.
Look for opportunities to lend existing skill sets to nearby nonprofits, schools, health and charity organizations. Offer time off (paid or unpaid) for employees to volunteer and integrate their volunteer contributions into their work performance evaluation. Employees can build professional skills and leadership experience through local community involvement, which will pay off with happy employees using these new skills for the company in advancing their careers.
Promote charitable giving for your employees to organizations that they are passionate about. Offer employer matching contributions and pre-tax contribution benefits that make it easy (and financially attractive) for employees to establish giving contributions on a continuous basis.
Extend the giving with power of giving with donation drives for non-monetary items local organizations may need (clinics, shelters, etc.) that your employees can organize and deliver with some media exposure arranged in the process. Sharing these stories of compassion and partnership on your social media channels is a simple way to build your company’s brand and motivate employees to advocate for both their employer and nonprofits they care about.
Don’t give the impression you sponsored a local event as a one time PR stunt. Align with causes and organizations that provide ongoing support and value to the community. Continued community activity is an excellent way to promote your brand and visibility. It also extends your brand reach with community members and organizations promoting the work you are doing with them, so be sure to be active on social media where they can share your stories and achievements.
Consumers want to support local businesses and economies, so even if you are a big corporation, by contributing to the community and promoting those activities, you can show how your company is as invested in the local community as other neighboring businesses. Leverage the company’s resources locally to engage the community’s heart and passions with genuine interest in local events and initiatives.
Promote what your employees are doing in the community, on your website and in social media. Consumers are much more attracted to stories of people than of products (and will remember it longer), so share your story and recognize community partnerships. They will return the favor with promoting your efforts with their supporters, which can be future company talent or potential customers.