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what not to do in csr strategy

Five things to avoid in your CSR strategy

The businesses’ purpose is going to be key to (re)building a sustainable and better society going forward. Here we have summarised the five things to avoid in your CSR strategy, in order to ensure it is a success for your employees, customers and other stakeholders:

1)      No clear focus or purpose

Today’s world faces many pressing challenges. The environment, social justice, healthcare, poverty: these are all worthy causes. But if you try to tackle everything at once, you will confuse your audience and lose your focus.

Instead, find the cause that fits with your business’s values and purpose. Talk to your stakeholders; find out what makes them tick; set clear and realistic objectives and invest the means to reach them.

2)      Glossy slogans with empty words

People, particularly new generations, are savvy and recognise an empty slogan from miles away. While a beautiful campaign might attract you some good PR, the backlash can be disastrous, once people realise it was all words and no action. Companies, just as non-profits, are under increased scrutiny. You better put your money where your mouth is or be prepared for customers to turn their backs on you.

3)      It is not a PR stunt

Most CSR budgets sit within a company’s marketing department. While this is not an issue per se, it is important to differentiate CSR strategy from a PR exercise. The risk is to seek media exposure more than real social or environmental impact. For instance, corporations still tend to partner with “big names”. They feel that big organisations are less risky because they have been around for a long time and have an established reputation. Sadly, we all know, too well, that big organisations are just as likely to present reputational risk. And when they do, the bigger the name, the bigger the spotlight.

By working with small organisations, you can really focus on the impact you’re trying to create and build powerful partnerships that will make your CSR strategy relevant and effective.

At Bread and Water for Africa UK for example, we are small, lean and adaptable. We work directly with communities in Africa and can demonstrate the life-changing impact of our partners’ contribution, no matter the size. We can create tailored experiences that have the power to transform teams, creating a long-lasting sense of purpose, deeply rooted in shared values.

4)      Don’t reinvent the wheel

When someone finds their purpose, they are eager to ‘make a difference’ and want to rush ‘to the rescue’. But social and environmental problems are complex issues that require concerted efforts, knowledge and expertise. So – unless you are indeed an expert – find an organisation that is and ask how you can help. This is how your contribution will have the biggest impact. What we need is people working together.

5)      It’s not all about money

Powerful partnerships are a two-way street and not a mere financial transaction. Find a non-profit that is aligned with your purpose, ask them what they need. Maybe they need your staff’s pro-bono expertise, or you can help them with office space, or promote their fundraising campaign in your newsletter. There are many ways you can help. All you need to do is ask. 


Sylvia Costantini picture Sylvia Costantini


Sylvia Costantini, Chief Executive Officer at Bread and Water for Africa UK

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