6 Steps To Enable Individual Social Responsibility At Your Organization

Tanya works as an administrative officer for a large real-estate firm with global operations. Her company has made CSR commitments for the environment and sustainable practices in line with their business objectives.

As a real-estate firm developing properties means that they need to cut trees and make way for large projects in the city. Therefore, the company decided to make afforestation a priority. Tanya is passionate about educating less fortunate children in her neighborhood and spends time every week at an orphanage engaging your people. Over the years she has observed that the school lacks funds for basic infrastructure and even though she has asked her circle of friends it never adds up to much. She is in a dilemma knowing her organization won’t be supportive since the focus areas and priorities are different.

Supporting Personal Passion

Every organization running CSR initiatives are expected to focus on core areas of interest aligned with their business goals. This often leaves employees who contribute their energies on other pursuits feel unrepresented. Yes, employees need to follow their heart with initiatives that matter to them.  What if organizations can pitch in with support for people like Tanya who contribute through ‘individual social responsibility’?

Individual social responsibility can be defined as prosocial actions to do good for society by people in their personal capacities. It can range from helping elders in an old age home, creating learning material for schools, teaching young adults life skills among others. Often these individuals form a collective and do more together or continue their good work in their own little way. Key elements of such engagements are personal accountability, stakeholder relationships, passion to improve society and ability to spot opportunities. The issues of scale and funds are some of the constraints that hinder better and sustained impact.

If you are leading or shaping your organization’s corporate social responsibility policies there is immense value in making your plans more inclusive. It is in your organization’s best interest to tap the power of employee volunteering. Such acts spread positivity among other employees and for others outside the firm. Research studies also indicate that employees who volunteer their time are more engaged at work and give them meaning and a purpose in life.

Here are 6 steps to help you make your process open and fair while helping leaders make appropriate decisions.

Gauge the interest within: Your volunteering surveys and informal conversations can give you insights on where and how your employees currently give back their time for CSR.  If you haven’t yet run a survey consider asking questions about their current engagement, how much time they devote, what skills they offer and why they volunteer with those specific institutions.  Have there been requests from employees to support causes they participate in? If you see a lot of interest your organization is probably ready for ‘individual social responsibility’ championing.


Define your approach: It can be confusing and unmanageable if organizations receive a flood of requests for support. Some organizations allocate a certain portion of funds for such initiatives while others try to blend it within their overall CSR framework. However, to ensure there is consistency and transparency, organizations need to define a clear approach and process to enable such opportunities to be surfaced. Very often employees want organizations to be aware of what they do and be heard. They may not even need funds – just encouraging words can go a long way.

Outline a clear process:  Explain why your organization is willing and open to supporting employees with their causes. Earmark a certain portion of funds which we can invest in say the top 5 initiatives which employees can bring to the table.  Even by getting all initiatives tabled they get the spotlight and attention they deserve – which is motivating for employees .Announce officially  the commitment for individual social responsibility and that the organization will evaluate and decide which ones to go with in a fair and open process.

Spell out the criteria: Keep it simple so that employees don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. Here are some steps:

  1. a) Employees to present their proposals as projects to the CSR committee
  2. b) Employees need to be involved directly and lead the initiatives they propose
  3. c) Employees need to work with the internal teams to conduct due diligence (e.g., financial review of NGOs, provide references of companies who are currently engaging with the entities, formal request for support from the institutions themselves)
  4. d) They need to commit to a minimum of 6-8 months of continuous involvement
  5. e) Must have a succession plan in which they nominate employees who can carry on the good work
  6. f) The project must highlight the long term view and the impact it creates (people it will reach/impact, the value etc)
  7. g) The project must have ways to scale up or improve other similar initiatives (school curriculum development for example can be extended to other schools who have needs).
  8. h) Employees need to report the progress and impact periodically

Enable the initiatives:  To ensure these initiatives are successful your internal systems and processes need to be in place and flexible. Can employees get access to funds in a simple, transparent manner? Can they expense claims based on actual bills? Are the key stakeholders involved in improving the process? Provide easy to use templates for employees to bring proposals to the table. Participate and understand what the projects aim to deliver. Make visits to the places the funds will reach. Remember to recognize great work.

Consider the issues: While opening up on individual social responsibility don’t take your eyes off the core CSR focus areas. Consider the bandwidth of your CSR committee and how much time they can spare. Be sure of how many and to what extend you can support initiatives. Sometimes, the initiatives can bloom into a very large engagement. Have a plan to review the engagement and also step back if it isn’t adding value to employees and the communities you support.

Overall, there is immense value in engaging your employees and supporting their interests in ways that work for both the organization and the communities. Having a clear and simple process and strategy can improve your chances of succeeding in your pursuit of promoting ‘individual social responsibility’.

Shall We Brand An Athletics Meet?

Lina proposed a branding idea to the leadership team of RayStar Service Centre, a captive unit of a leading travel company and listened as the group debated the pros and cons of event branding.

Lina is the head of HR and she has been tasked with improving employee morale which has seen a dip in recent times. The organization isn’t faring too well either with the travel business slowing down a bit. Lina is very passionate about sports and been a state level basketball player for many years before making her mark in the corporate world.

Manish (CEO): “Lina, thanks for bringing this proposal to the table. When we met as a group, we had reviewed our current state of our business, looked at how our employees were feeling disconnected and what we needed to do more to re-engage. I appreciate your interest in sports and can see the drive you have to make this happen. We are evaluating other proposals as well. Before, we get there I would like my leadership team to share their views.”

Imam: (Business Head – IT): “Lina, it might help for us to get a gist of what this proposal is about. We can give our views thereafter.”

Lina: “Our employees are well connected and know what is going on in the corporate world. I have heard many of them share how TripMate and HippHop are branding large scale events in the city and country and that they are getting influenced by how those organizations are having more brand awareness in the talent market. You are aware that some of our employees recently moved to these entities. That apart, we haven’t as a brand been present in terms of an event we can own and call it ours. I am sure if we invest in one big ticket event – either as a sponsor or creating one theme we will be in the news”.


Imam: “Ok, so we feel that there is a need to be more aggressive in our brand building effort. I am surprised however that we aren’t known as much as TripMate and Hipphop despite us being around longer than them in the industry. Also, our profile as a captive doesn’t warrant us to be out there actively pitching for events. We don’t have customers in the country per se – we do all our work for our parent company. Yet, I do understand that doing something which relates to our audiences may help us improve our standing. Were you considering an external event or was it internal?”

Jane: (Business Head – Emerging Countries): “Lina, I agree with Imam. Is there really a need for doing something like sponsoring or owning an event? Can’t we just participate and get some basic brand visibility? Also, if our employees are feeling low, we should do an event for them, first – right?”

Lina: (looking flustered): “I meant we can also do something for employees first and see how it shapes up. But, if we do it externally, there will be more takers and we will get all the media attention we can ask for. I am very excited and know this sports meet will be a big hit. You can see how well some of the recent sports events such as professional league kabaddi was received. Our athletes are doing well in global events as well. We have stars in the making right in our country.”

Dipak: (Business Head – Marketing): “Folks, I have been listening in to this discussion and have a point of view. From a marketing perspective this makes a lot of sense. It is important to be visible and be known in an area that we can promote and project. However, I am unclear on why we need to be doing a sports meet? Why not do something which impacts travelers? Why not a travelogue on TV? Why not an arts exhibition? Or support travel journalists? Or our employees like Jane mentioned. Incidentally, we can also check if there is an opportunity under the CSR themes that the government has defined”

Imam: “These are good suggestions. Do we know if our employees want an event or our travelers see it as a need which will change how they perceive us as a brand? Dipak, do we have any research that explains what they currently think? Or why can’t we sponsor some athletes whom we can nurture. Or better still, can’t we create an academy to train these athletes. ”

Dipak: (realizing he spoke too soon and wasn’t prepared with insights): “Hmm. Well. We have been considering a survey for a while but getting new business was a priority for the last few years. We can do a quick study if budgets permit.”

Manish: (stepping in): “Team, we need to revisit our branding approach. It doesn’t seem clear to me as to what we want to do – for our employees, first. To me, that was a priority we were initially focused on, right? What is the connection of sports with our business? Can you consider what is most appropriate and come back with a strategy and a plan?”

Lina and the team troop out murmuring why they weren’t able to arrive at a concrete solution in this meeting.

Reflect on this case study and share your views.

How can you help the group arrive at a suitable approach and a decision to get to their branding initiative? Keen to hear your thoughts. Do share them here.