Why software houses should take care of corporate social responsibility

What is a corporate social responsibility?

A concept of corporate social responsibility grew in popularity over the last couple of years. A narrow understanding of CSR reduces it to simply making donations for social purposes, but it’s obviously a drop in the ocean of what a company can do to impact the world. When approached properly and considered to be more than mere philanthropy, corporate social responsibility is nothing but a modern philosophy of running a business. In short, CSR is based on making a conscious choice as a company to act in a way that’s clear, ethical, and benefits the community/environment. But is it profitable?

Is corporate social responsibility beneficial?

You may think that customers don’t care about CSR and only think about the product/service they pay for. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong! It’s fair to say that being responsive to the current affairs is getting more and more popular, especially when it comes to the younger generations. Just take a look at the Dove company, which tackled the self-acceptance issues with their Real Beauty campaign. Not only they spread the world about their products (without making it a focus of the campaign) but also created good connotations with the brand. It distinguished itself from other brands, emphasising their pro-customer approach. Sound quite profitable, right?

CSR in the IT industry

Now it’s time to tackle the question of how does CSR benefit software houses and companies working in the web development industry. First of all, the IT industry is cooperating with plenty of startups, which quite often are filled with young people that care about the world we live in and treat CSR activities as a sign of a good future cooperation. After all, if a software house truly knows the value of corporate social responsibility, they probably also are open-minded and willing to listen to the needs of their clients! It also shows that the company is not a mere machine that creates products worthy of top software development company, but a group of great people that care about what's happening around them.

Also, when creating an image (which, of course, is only a result of CSR, not it’s main goal), you have to remember about recruitment needs. And since plenty of programmers demand more from their employer than just a paycheck, they may be more inclined to work with someone who allows for making a change in the world WHILE earning money. After all, top web developers usually have a plethora of different offers to choose from - it's the add-ons that can tip the scale.

Since I touched on the subject of employer branding benefits, let’s also talk about the people already working in a company that includes CSR in their activities. Simply put it, plenty of people will feel a deeper connection with their workplace if it’s active in the community. Organizing quite a few charitable actions myself, I can attest that the spirit of the company grows when it unites in doing something good together. But enough about the reasons why you should take care of the CSR - let's talk about how you can do it!

This weekend was truly hectic for our software house! But we could have million parties, projects and responsibilities and still wouldn't miss partaking in #SzlachetnaPaczka. 🎁🎁🎁 As you can see, we happily packed everything (apart from the fridge, thank God for the door to door delivery!), posed in the elevator 📸and spread our Christmas cheer. 🎅🎄🎶And there's no bigger cheer than the one caused by helping other people ♥️ thank you to everyone who helped in creating this package, it was trully a team effort! #gift #charity #bestfeeling #happy #success #helping #fun #shenanigans #goodcause #proud #officelife #afterhours #szlachetnapaczka2017 #webdevelopment #webdesign # softwarehouse #poznan #poland #merixstudio

A post shared by MERIXSTUDIO (@merixstudio) on Dec 12, 2017 at 6:55am PST

Examples of great corporate social responsibility activities

You may be inclined to include CSR into the activities of your company, but frankly, are not sure how to start. Or maybe you are afraid of the time and effort it will take employees to do some good for the world. Those are very real and reasonable concerns - after all, the hourly rate of a developer is not cheap! ;) Also, you can't put your ongoing projects on hold to tackle world's problems - your clients, while undoubtedly very understanding, may not like that their projects are going nowhere. Luckily there are ways to do some good while virtually doing no work.

Easy ways to include CSR in your office

In Merixstudio, a few years ago we started our CSR rather simply. One of the things we did was started cooperation with I love Ziemek, a charity for a boy from our city. The goal was to gather plastic bottle caps in our office - all we needed were conveniently places boxes for people to collect their caps instead of throwing them out. And let me put the emphasis on the word conveniently - only with taking this into the account you can assure the success of the action!

What's more, to promote the action we also organised internal competition between each room in our office - whoever gathers more caps in a month, wins. And let me tell you, this really it worked - people even were bringing bags from home! So, with a small effort of putting boxes in the office, we were able not only to help a person in need but also lessen the carbon footprint of almost 70 people.

And since talking about carbon footprint, one of the most obvious way you can make an impact on the world while doing almost nothing, is obviously segregating your trash. However, here's where, once again, the convenience of people is the way of success. You simply can't place segregated bins in one place in a large office and expect people to use them! It's not about looking like you are care about the environment - you really need to try your best. In our office, you will see many segregated bins placed in the various spaces around the office, so it's impossible for us not to use them. We assumed that if we ensure that people can be more eco without even thinking hard about it, we will create a greener company in no time. And let's be honest - it may not be the most glamour of topics, but our planet needs us to talk about it!

Working towards the improvement of the IT industry

But, putting the matter of ecology aside, let's talk about the actions specific to the IT industry that you can include in your CSR. Without a doubt, one of the things you can do as a software house is spreading awareness of the limited accessibility of the internet. If you attended Maria's presentations at our recent DevCollege Combo event, you know that taking disabilities of users into account is a very important part of both User Experience design and web development. After all, who more than us loves the Internet and knows how much it offers? So we are the ones who should fight for it to be available to everyone! You can read more on the subject in Michał's article, where he discusses ADA & WCAG Compliance.

Speaking of knowledge, let's think about the things you know well and can share it with the world. Since we know how to programme, we want to help aspiring web developers to achieve their dream and learn to code. We do it through our own events, the aforementioned DevCollege Combo and Django Hotspot, as well as by taking part in other external initiatives. When it comes to organising something of your own, I'm not going to lie to you that it doesn't require a lot of time and effort on your part. If you think about it as only giving to the community (which is the basis of our events), you may think that it's not worth it. However, as I've mentioned when discussing the perks of CRS, you will be able to create a welcoming environment, so you won't feel that you sacrifice anything. I also strongly encourage you to look for initiatives you can take part in, such as Made with code or CoderDojo. If those examples are not your cup of tea, don't worry - there are so many great organisations working towards spreading the web development knowledge, that you will have plenty to choose from.

How to encourage people to take part in CSR activities

In the previous points, I've emphasised the importance of convenience when implementing any CSR activity. Without it, the novelty of every action you introduce will wear thin rather quickly and will be abandoned instead of treated as a regular part you the day-to-day life of your office. So put some thought into it - how you can make it as easy as possible for your coworker to take part in the action you want to start? Don't overdo it - when it comes to long-running endeavours, simplicity is the key!

I've already talked about some things you can do, but let's not forget about the most common CSR initiative - the good ol' fundraising. It may be a temporary solution to big problems, but in many cases, it's a very needed solution. However, if you've ever organised such an event, you know, that asking people for money get's boring rather quickly. So how you can avoid it? Well, here's where you can get a bit creative and chuck simplicity out of the window!

You saw on our Stories that this morning we've had a breakfast bonanza in our office. 🍞All because of our charity auction, during which we've gathered a few thousand złoty for a Children's Day gifts for kids from DPS Św Rocha. ☀️ During this auction we bid on a variety of things - for instance, being able to work for a day from COO's office (talk about the perfect addition to our Wednesday #officedesk series!🖥️), Piotr's famous sandwiches😍, or a tomato-shaped kitchen clock🍅. The last option may seem weird, but it's an inside joke - Marta paid quite a lot of money to win it! ;) We also sold book📚, cakes🍰, and much much more - after all, you gotta buy a lot of stuff to gather so much money!💸 . . . #ChildrensDay #dziendziecka #happy #breakfast #funatwork #lovemyjob #delicious #officelife #friends #office #auction #charity #csr #softwarehouse #merixstudio #itindustry #poznan #webdeveloper #programmer #developer #webdesigner #programmerslife #coding #code #python #reactjs #development #webdevelopment

A post shared by MERIXSTUDIO (@merixstudio) on Jun 6, 2018 at 4:38am PDT

One of the best fundraisings we've ever done was for this year's Children's Day (pictured above). Instead of just pitching in, we've decided to also make it fun for ourselves and created an auction, where anyone was able to put up anything they deemed worthy. People gave their books, baked cakes and muffins, and offered their assistance when it comes to fixing computers or being a personal chauffeur. Some people gave swimming or running lessons, others cleaned their colleagues' desks, our COO even gave up his office for the day (as well as prepared a cup of coffee for the winner). What's important here is the fact that it was a new, fresh take on fundraising, which gave us plenty of joy and (in a fun way!) encouraged us to chip in. And encourage it did, since with the final few thousand złoty we were able to make kids at DPS św. Rocha Poznań very happy indeed!

That's obviously not the only way you can encourage people. First of all, take a look at your own company - what are their hobbies? Maybe a charitable football match is a way to go? If you coordinate the personal interests and overall vibe of your office with the charitable goals, you will have a bigger chance of success. If you can, show people what or whom they are helping. That's why when we've gathered money for the aminal shelter, our office was decorated with posters of real dogs and cats from the shelter we were trying to help. If you are taking part in such initiatives as Szlachetna Paczka, where you are helping a specific family, talk about them with your coworkers and show them how their involvement can change someone's life. And don't be afraid of being invasive when it comes to reminding people - we're all busy and can sometimes forget about things. But find a sweet spot - maybe don't send out an email once a day! ;)

Don't be afraid of CSR

Those are obviously only a few examples what you can do as a software house (or any other company, for that matter) to make a world better while at the same time creating a great environment in your company. Browse through such websites as Odpowiedzialny Biznes or CSR Europe and read great case studies, watch smart TedTalks, listen to the needs of your community, and be mindful of what you can do. There's no need for spending a big chunk of your time and energy to make an impact - with simple solutions and smart planning, you can do quite a lot for plenty of people.

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