Much like there are fads in fashion, there are also fads in business practices. Leadership styles and trendy products come and go, and as an entrepreneur, it’s important to identify which of these new ideas may stick and resonate with your business. And for many entrepreneurs, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is doing exactly that: sticking around, and resonating both with their employees and their customers.

The transparency created by the advent of the internet has many consumers expecting more than a mere product or service for their money. This is especially true of those of Generation Y. It seems that businesses are now expected to strive for a healthy triple bottom line: economic, social and environmental. If this seems daunting, don’t worry. With a little forethought and some careful planning, you can turn this conundrum into nothing less than a win/win situation.

Whether you have already incorporated volunteerism, sustainability or non-profit support into your corporate culture, or whether you’re just delving in, strive to balance your values, interests and budget with the bigger picture of consumer perception.

Here are some initial steps to get you started:

  • Decide which social issues you want your business to address.
  • Consider how you can present opportunities to create shared values with your employees and customers.
  • Know what your competition is doing and then stand out from the pack: Do it differently or do it better.
  • Create a strategy that’s appropriate for your business; this may mean allowing employees flextime to volunteer, sponsoring appropriate events or any of a number of other options.

Now don’t pull a Blake Mycoskie (founder of TOMS Shoes) and think you need to shape your entire business model around this idea of corporate social responsibility. What has worked for others may not be the best plan for you and your business. Simply strive to be authentic and transparent with all parties benefiting from the partnership.

When contemplating support of a non-profit organization, often the first thought that comes to mind is to financially contribute. But remember, there are many ways to contribute to a non-profit other than monetarily. You can donate your time, expertise, connections, material items, services and products—all are valuable.

Aside from garnering positive consumer attention, a well-implemented CSR plan is proven to increase staff retention and even have a positive effect on the economic bottom line of your business. This may be in part because employees feel better about their workplace and their contribution to society.

The relationship between business and society is evolving into something more complex. However you choose to participate in this evolution, map it out. Revisit your plan on a regular basis to ensure that it’s still relevant to you and your organization. Are you ready to make a positive impact in your community and beyond?

AvatarMiki Markovich

Miki is a marketing and leadership consultant for Ground, Path & Fruition.