Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and pro bono activities are two necessary parts of any business wanting to demonstrate the philanthropic endeavours and community priorities central to their business. Although both are of great importance to your business identity, there are notable structural distinctions between the two. In this article, we explore these differences in detail and how businesses can best use each model most effectively.

What is Pro Bono?

Pro bono work is the provision of complimentary services by a company or employee of that company for the “public good”. Pro bono work mainly comprises of more generalised assistance to a particular cause rather than an organisation. Pro bono is most commonly associated with law firms offering free legal advice and advocacy to those normally unable to access it. However, other types of pro bono activities may include:

  • Loaning an employee to a non-profit free of charge
  • Providing mentoring to members of a not-for-profit organisation or those that the organisation services
  • Having a group fundraising event for a particular. A sporting activity is one popular way to achieve this.
  • Giving a not-for-profit entity valuable resources and/or consultancy to assist it in its aims and performance.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is used to express the obligation that a business has to its assist the wider community and those disadvantaged or of need within it.

Typically a more structured system, CSR involves direct sponsorship and partnerships with charities and other non-profits rather than on a more adhoc basis as is often, but not always, the case with pro-bono services. It can also function as a vessel and enabler for pro bono services, which are often integrated into corporate social responsibility.

CSR may also encompass organisational goals for diversity and inclusion such as achieving gender, disability and ethnic representation in the workplace. It also includes not-for-profit sponsorship arrangements, minimising a business’ ecological footprint and improving workplace culture by allowing employees to pursue altruistic causes.

A prominent example of this is the Reconciliation Action Plan, which employers can sign-up to show their commitment to the goals of achieving greater engagement with and service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

There are also two other internationally recognised CSR standards worth noting, those being of ISO 9001 and ISO 140001. ISO 9001 is a qualitative standard applicable to customer experience, whereas ISO 140001 specifically relates to environmental management. As a ready-made framework, these standards can easily be inserted within an existing CSR program.

Key Takeaways

When identifying the suitability of a CSR or pro bono program for your business, it is important to consider how the features of each can best benefit your company culture, employee retention and external outreach. This best outcome may even be achievable through a complementary arrangement which encompasses both CSR and pro bono services. Whichever your business decides upon, the role of both in building brand awareness and customer loyalty by showing your responsiveness to social interests aligned with theirs, should not be understated. Questions? Get in touch and call us on 1300 544 755.

Anthony Lieu
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