Don’t let your good intentions go to waste

CSRMark Topley explores how you can capitalise on your corporate social responsibility efforts to best effect.

‘We did an event for charity a few months back. It was great fun, and everybody had such a fantastic time. And then we realised after a while that we’d done nothing since. All that momentum, all that goodwill, had been lost. It was so frustrating to know what we wanted to do and what would make a difference, and yet not have the ability to keep it consistent.’ 

This is a common lament when I speak to new clients. They know what they want to do, but making it happen is very difficult. It’s an ongoing problem, and when you are someone who both understands the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and genuinely wants to do the right thing, it can leave you feeling frustrated.

CSR is non-negotiable for the post-COVID business. Even before 2020, 88% of consumers said they expected a business to do good as an integral aspect of its strategy. 

‘People are going to want, and be able, to find out about the citizenship of a brand. Whether it is doing the right things socially, economically and environmentally,’ said Mike Clasper, president of business development at Proctor and Gamble (Europe).

But if you are one of the majority of owners and managers that understands this, knowing what you want to do often isn’t the problem. The problem is a lack of structure. When the urgent things come up, the important but non-urgent things like CSR fall by the wayside. 

The two keys to CSR success

CSR success relies on a foundation of a simple system and a passionate person. I understand the challenges. I was the chief executive officer of the dental charity Bridge2aid for several years. During that time, I grew to appreciate that building systems with people, giving them the tools and support to implement them, and then holding them to account for the result was the successful way forward. 

More recently, I combined my years of experience in leadership and project management with the evidence-based principles of solid CSR strategy to bring CSR into the heart of the practice in a way that adds value. 

A simple system – the CSR coach process

Creating the CSR plan requires four main stages: foundation, engagement, implementation/management and review. 

Here is a summary of the process I use with clients. You can download it for free from my website in the ‘60-minute CSR plan’ (

  • Foundation – fans of Simon Sinek will understand the importance of rooting what you plan to do in a clear explanation of why it’s important. So rather than starting with: ‘We’re going to support XYZ’, start with: ‘We believe that being an engaged contributor to our community is important, and so that’s why we are going to support XYZ’
  • Engagement – once you know the ‘why’ behind your CSR, and you’ve created some commitments in the areas of people, environment and community, engage your team in a discussion of who you will support, what your target will be, and what you could do together. Transfer these ideas into a plan. Start small and build up, rather than trying to do too much too soon
  • Implementation and management – your CSR champion is the critical person in this. They are appointed and supported to manage the plan
  • Review – every few months, sit with the CSR champion and evaluate what has worked, what hasn’t. Re-engage the team with some new ideas.

A passionate person – the CSR champion

Every successful CSR plan needs a champion; a lynchpin that will hold the plan, engage the enthusiasts and keep the whole team informed and excited about what’s going on. 

They are the people who lead the various aspects of the work and involve others to coordinate the ideas and make them happen. They are fully released and empowered by the principal. 

Champions are sometimes practice managers, and almost never principals. Typically, they are an enthusiastic person with leadership potential. In fact, one of my clients, a large group of schools, uses CSR champions as a mid-level leadership development tool. 

The success of your champion relies on four factors:

  • Appoint somebody and then empower them to get on – do not micromanage
  • Support the champion with regular contact, particularly in the early stages
  • Hold them to account for preparation and progress
  • Make sure you support and develop them as a leader, coaching them through the inevitable challenges that will arise. 

If CSR is systematically structured, planned and managed, it can add great value to a practice. It will help you to galvanise the team, foster morale and create a positive reputation with your patients. 

If you combine a simple system with a passionate person and resource both appropriately, you can look forward to a regular feel-good factor from your events and schemes. You’ll build team spirit, make a big impact for charities, and grow your profile.

This article first ran in Dentistry magazine. Read the latest issue of Dentistry magazine here.

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