While many businesses want to make a positive contribution to their community, they don't always know how to go about it.
Bridgit Evans, Business Development Manager for GreaterCapital (a social enterprise providing integrated social investment solutions and investment opportunities) sheds some light on the importance of CSI and how to develop it for your business.
What is CSI?
Corporate social investment (CSI) is traditionally the 1% of after-tax profit that companies invest into the society in which they operate. While this is not a legal requirement, it has become an expected practice of good corporate citizenship. CSI projects are the areas where companies choose to put their spend. In most cases, companies choose social issues that they feel passionate about, such as education, the environment, health, entrepreneurship, etc. They then find reputable non-profit organisations (NPOs) that make an impact in a community and invest in them.
What can my business gain from developing CSI projects?
- A country with massive unemployment, poor education, environmental degradation and low economic growth translates into a country with potential political unrest, hesitant foreign investors, a lack of skills, limited buying power, decrease in arable farmland, etc. So therefore, an investment into the curbing of these problems is in every company's best interest.
- Contribution to BEE score cards.
- Build your reputation both among staff members and within the communities that you operate in - this includes the consumers of your products.
How do I go about developing CSI for my company?
- Selecting focus areas can be difficult if not done strategically. The best approach is to look at your business holistically and think creatively about where your company can add real value to the country's social agenda while making good long-term business sense.
- You should then proactively find service providers who can help you deliver on this agenda and commit to them for the long term, based on an agreed set of deliverables. Draw up policies and guidelines and make formal agreements with your service providers.
- Ensure that monitoring and evaluation systems are in place when commencing the work so that the impact of what you are trying to achieve is measurable over a period of time.
- Encourage employee input by setting up a committee and encourage involvement with the projects beyond funding. It is very important to ensure that whoever is overseeing the company's CSI has a thorough understanding of social development. Training is essential if this is not the case.
- Any community needs to be well understood and consulted before any change occurs. NPOs understand communities far better than companies do and they should be empowered to use their expertise on the ground. A good CSI project is a partnership.