Corporate Social Responsibility and your Aesthetic Practice
John Powers, PhD
Director of Education and Research
Aesthetic Business Institute
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a key business strategy for larger business entities over the last several years, requiring investment of time, energy, and dollars. Numerous studies have shown that when CSR is part of a company’s business plan and model, there is an improvement in reputation and relationships with communities and customers. Ultimately, this can lead to business growth and revenue increases, assuming that involvement with social issues remain separate from sales goals. In essence, research shows that current and potential clients are more likely to engage with businesses that show a commitment to bettering the community and helping those in need.
Why Corporate Social Responsibility?
In today’s society, businesses and specifically aesthetic medical practices are facing increased pressure to engage in addressing issues of concern in their communities and society as a whole. This is a result of many factors, including trends in society toward an increased awareness and concern related to ethical issues, the environment, poverty alleviation, and more. It has always been the case that a business or practice that is perceived to engage in unethical practices would suffer in attracting new and retaining current clients. Now, consumers and society as a whole have an additional expectation that a business is in some way proactively involved in correcting societal ills or at least contributing in an altruistic manner.
Studies continue to show that not engaging in CSR can bring about a reduction in favorable reputation for the brand, erosion of good will with publics and audiences, and in fact decreases in revenue. In contrast, demonstrating sound corporate social responsibility practices can lead to substantial benefit to the organization. Effective CSR programs will develop an increase of positive attitudes toward the practice, as well as providing competitive advantages within the marketplace. Many businesses engaged in consistent CSR efforts experience an increase in sales, higher staff morale through involvement in corporate volunteer activities, and lower employee turnover.
There are countless examples of small and larger businesses that have successfully achieved a balance between profits, high quality service or products, and social concerns. They have invested in long-term sustainability, both for the business but also for society as a whole. In essence, an aesthetic practice or small business engaged in CSR is willing to forgo some short-term growth opportunities for bigger societal sustainability and improvements, and this can be done without impacting profits (and in fact improve the bottom line).
Integrating corporate social responsibility into your business strategy requires some thoughtfulness and careful planning. While it is clear that involving CSR in your plans will benefit your practice’s reputation and bottom line, it is imperative that this is done in a transparent and sincere manner. You will be integrating social concerns into your business strategy, plans, and operations on a voluntary basis, essentially investing in corporate values and ethics that go beyond profit. By doing this, you will gain your community’s trust while also promoting positive change. CSR programs can quickly backfire if there is any hint that there is a profit motive behind the social concern.
In fact, a newer accounting framework is now being used in many businesses that focus on involving social responsibility in bottom-line financials. The triple bottom line (TBL) goes beyond the traditional method of just measuring profit and loss, but instead includes social and environmental elements. Also known as “The Three Ps” of accounting (profits, people, and planet), this measures the business’ impact on society, including its profitability along with the social, human, and environmental impact. In addition to the number of jobs your practice provides and the amount of taxes paid, how many hours do your employees volunteer during work time in the community? What type of charitable contributions and impact are you making? This is a helpful way of examining your practice as more and more consumers are asking how your practice is contributing to society.
Developing a Strategic CSR Agenda
Now that we have laid out and presented the importance of a corporate social responsibility program for your practice, what is the best way to go about getting started and implementing CSR? It is understood that aesthetic medical practices are not large corporations with seemingly unlimited staff members and resources. Certainly, CSR strategies need to match the size, interest, and bandwidth of the business itself. Yet today’s consumer still has expectations that even small organizations will contribute to the betterment of people in the local community and society as a whole.
Below are some practical ways to begin putting together an effective, sustainable, and beneficial corporate social responsibility program for your aesthetic practice:
- identify relevant CSR initiatives and issues that best fit your organization. What causes are you and your employees most passionate about? Where can you make a tangible difference in improving a situation or the lives of people? This should be a personal decision that leads to a natural fit for your business. Note: it is recommended that your CSR campaign focuses on improving a societal ill and avoids any overly controversial, divisive, or directly political issues.
- find consistency in your CSR programs. By being involved with the same or at least similar causes and non-profit organizations over time, you will develop relationships and a brand consistency that is important for success.
- have pure motives. This may be the most important element of a CSR program that will bring sustainable benefits to your organization. Consumers and the public in general can easily spot businesses that are involved in CSR for the wrong reasons. Often this happens when an organization gets involved in activities that may appear self-serving or come across as if you are involved only to promote your business. Be careful to focus more on the good being done for people or society and less on benefits to your practice. This sincerity of motives will be what ultimately leads to a boost for your aesthetic practice’s reputation and bottom-line.
Reporting and Sharing
Assuming that your practice is able to launch even a modest corporate social responsibility effort, what then? Are there ways to take advantage and leverage any good will gained for your business? Telling the stories of your CSR efforts is crucial, as is the way those stories are told:
- be transparent in sharing the details of your CSR efforts. Most consumers and community members will see right through any attempt to be less than forthcoming with the reasons and motivation behind your CSR program. Why are you engaging in these projects? What connects you, your employees, and/or your business to the cause or charity? How does the community, people, the environment, and your own business and employees benefit from this effort?
- share more to advance the cause and less to promote your business. Subtlety is a crucial component in the sharing of your CSR stories and successes. Be convinced that you will “promote” your business by simply telling the stories of your work and the sincere passion behind your efforts to make a difference.
- identify and communicate any areas of social change or assistance that still need to be addressed (and if you will work on this in the future), any areas where maybe you fell short, and how you might handle future related endeavors.
While there are a lot of things to consider and strategize with a corporate social responsibility program, the most crucial element is to recognize the importance and value of this endeavor. Your practice’s brand, reputation, employee morale, and ultimately the bottom line will all benefit, while making a positive difference in the world.
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