The face of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy is quickly evolving. In the last few years, companies have evolved their strategies to meet the moment and create the social impact that stakeholders seek. This became apparent over the last several years, as corporations sought to meet the moment by shifting their CSR and philanthropy from more traditional programs/topics to a new series of challenges and opportunities, from combating the COVID-19 crisis to supporting social justice movements.

In the wake of these changes, many companies are stepping back to refresh and redefine their social impact strategies as they confront new and emerging challenges, such as the war in Ukraine or growing climate crises. When we look at recent CSR efforts, we see several habits that corporations should double down on to maximize societal impact and business value: agility, responsiveness, and above all, a clear tie to corporate goals, especially those that are tied to ESG.

This requires companies to have a clear, cohesive, and strong theory of change and direction for achieving that. This can feel daunting, but it does not have to be. Here are three simple but effective steps—and accompanying tools—that you can use to refresh your corporate philanthropy and CSR practices, pulled from our CSR Strategy Roadmap toolkit.

Step 1: Confirm why your company engages in corporate philanthropy and CSR
If you’re like many of the corporations we work with, you’ll consider this question in light of your purpose, DEI commitments you’ve made, and the goals of your key stakeholders—from investors to employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities in which you operate.

Step 2: Refine your key issues and what you focus on based on the evolving context of your company’s operating environment
The context in which your company is operating is constantly shifting—be that of regulations, marketplace dynamics, investor pressure, employee expectations, or customer profiles. Those shifts in expectations impact your CSR and philanthropic activities as well, often materializing as similar shifts in expectations, areas of focus, or the resources available to you and your teams.

Step 3: Revisit your impact model and how it should evolve in support of the above
Once you’ve clarified your why and the what for your company’s CSR and philanthropy, the next step is to focus on the how. There are many different models companies use to structure their philanthropic activities. Your choice for how you engage in the issues you narrowed in on during Step 2 will be influenced by your current approaches as well as specific internal and external factors identified in Steps 1 and 2.

Read the full article about corporate social responsibility by Chirlie Felix and Nikhil Bumb at FSG.