When developing a CSR program a company should:

1. Pick the right issue. To succeed in solving a significant social problem and enhancing its corporate image, a company needs to find the right problem to solve. It should find a single issue that is important, timely, and leverages the company’s core competencies. An issue such as this is more likely to attract media attention, which will help bolster the company’s reputation. Equally important, an issue that captures media attention will make it easier for the company to engage nonprofits and government agencies and create the sort of cross-sector partnerships that are essential to solving the problem.

2. Establish concrete goals and report progress. Business stakeholders long ago became jaded with companies’ vague pledges to address social issues. To stand out from the crowd, a company needs to publicly commit to an ambitious and quantifiable goal that goes beyond what is expected, and to provide regular reports on its progress using independent external audits or reviews. A company should set ambitious goals, but it must also deliver the results it promised within a reasonable period of time.

3. Deploy the company’s key assets. The truly valuable assets that a company has – its products and services, skilled employees, industry expertise, global infrastructure, and its network of connections, credibility, and influence – are rarely tapped for social progress. Yet these company assets are every bit as powerful in solving social problems as they are in creating economic value for the company. Once a company learns to break down internal barriers and integrate its CSR initiatives with its entire value chain, new and more powerful opportunities for solving social problems will arise.

4. Work in cross-sector partnerships. The term “partnership” in CSR or corporate philanthropy is often used loosely to apply to any relationship between a company and a nonprofit organization or government agency. Often these partnerships are no more than large cash contributions accompanied by joint press releases. The most effective solutions to social problems are those that engage nonprofit, business, and government agencies in cross-sector partnerships where each sector concentrates on what it does best.