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introduction

Did you know?
CSR efforts and initiatives frequently reduce the use of water, energy and resources, as well as getting employees more closely involved. So, ecological wins go hand in hand with economic wins. In addition, investors and venture capitalists attach ever more importance to sustainability.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (in Dutch) refers to organizations taking responsibility for the effects of their decisions and activities on society and the environment, by working ethically and transparently. (Source: ISO 26000)

CSR  (in Dutch) requires organizations to pay careful attention to human rights, consumer interests, and social, ethical and environmental issues in both their activities and their core strategy, and to collaborate closely with stakeholders (in Dutch).

SO, WHAT CAN I DO?

CSR consistently strives for economical (Profit), social (People) and environmental (Planet) improvement – a strategy also referred to as the ‘triple P bottom-line’.

Moreover, keep in mind that CSR is a process, not an outcome. The specific challenges you face will change in time and with each strategic decision you make. 

Dive into this part to discover how you can incorporate CSR practices step by step, so sustainable entrepreneurship …

  • becomes what it’s supposed to be (an integral part of your business model)
  • and ends up where it belongs (right at the heart of your organization).

strategies for Get to work

Explore the vocabulary of sustainability

CSR is logical and intuitive. A no-brainer, really. Yet it does come with a certain vocabulary, which you should familiarize yourself with at the start of your CSR initiative. 

That’s why this first strategy lines up the terms you need to navigate the world of CSR and sustainability.

STAKEHOLDERS

Your organization is embedded in society, influencing - and being influenced by - other organizations and companies, groups and individuals. We call them stakeholders.

Examples? Employees, customers and suppliers immediately come to mind. But governments, NGOs, investors, trade unions, your banker, the community and the media are also stakeholders.

CSR involves continuous stakeholder dialogue. Identifying your stakeholders, listening to them and getting them involved are a must for any organization that takes its social responsibility seriously. The process of mapping your stakeholders’ interests and influence, and working with this information, is called stakeholder management.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a series of universal sustainability goals, passed unanimously by the UN in September 2015. By signing the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, all 193 UN members committed themselves to using the SDGs as the framework for their 2030 sustainability strategy.

The Sustainable Development Goals comprise seventeen primary targets, 169 secondary targets and a wide range of specific indicators, subdivided into five categories (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace en Partnerships) and covering various themes. The SDG website of the United Nations gives you an overview.

You, too, can contribute to achieving the SDGs by making sustainable choices and taking sustainable actions. Do you prefer to start from your organization and your own sustainability goals? That’s just as well. In that case, you can use the SDG as a final check. Try to link every goal you set yourself to an existing SDG.

THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

The circular economy maximizes the reusability of products and resources, while minimizing value destruction. In other words, the goal is to retain the value of everything that is valuable and let nothing go to waste.

This attitude contrasts sharply with the current linear system, in which resources are turned into products that are destroyed at the end of their lives.

The transition from a linear to a circular economy is high on the political agenda worldwide. Flanders doesn’t lag behind: to prioritize the circular economy, the Flemish Government launched Circular Flanders as a crucial part of its Vision 2050 strategy.

TRANSPARENCY

Openness, visibility and accessibility. These organizational characteristics rock the world of CSR and sustainability.

By giving insight into the choices you have to make – how and why you make them, and with what consequences – stakeholders are able to keep a closer watch on your activities, but can also contribute ideas and suggestions for improvement. That’s why transparency often spurs innovation.

In addition, transparency ensures that your customers (and society as a whole) know what you stand for and enables you to account for your business operations.

tips&tricks

  • MVO Vlaanderen (CSR Flanders)
    Go to the website of MVO Vlaanderen (CSR Flanders) to find out all there is to know about corporate social responsibility.
    Read more

  • Terminology
    Bio-eco-vegan-fairtrade … What’s in a name? When you’re lost in semantics, make sure to check the website of Eco Fashion World or the glossary of …
    Read more

  • Tools for entrepreneurs
    Higg Index - Sustainable Apparel Coalition De Higg Index is a tool developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition for the purpose of measuring…
    Read more

  • Trainings and workshops
    Royal College of Art (London) Textiles Programme The Royal College of Art or RCA is a public research university in London that offers 29 dis…
    Read more

  • Organizations, nonprofits, research and learning centers
    Subscribe to the newsletters or follow these organizations on social media: Belgium:     Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken     Schone Kleren Cam…
    Read more

  • Draw up an action plan with the Planner
    Looking to take the green road, but having trouble planning your route or getting lost among the many options available? Rest assured: the Planner…
    Read more

  • Worth watching
    De slag om de klerewereld - VPRO  (in Dutch) Sweatshop Deadly Clothes - Joakim Kleven The True Cost - Andrew Morgan The Next…
    Read more

  • Interesting reads
    BOOKS In Dutch: Lynsey Dubbeld - Mode voor Morgen Marieke Eyskoot - Talking Dress In English: Fashion: …
    Read more

  • Know your labels
    Labelinfo.be offers a useful overview of sustainability labels. You can select lifestyle and clothing to limit the scope to those labels that are …
    Read more

  • Cradle to Cradle Product Design - free online course
    The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute offers an online course that explains how to design for a circular economy. The course is a…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Start with your quick wins

As paradoxical as it may sound: you don’t need a full-fledged CSR strategy to reap the benefits. So many companies wait until they’ve got it all figured out. They wait for the perfect approach. And they wait… and wait...

That’s such a shame! After all, the results of your first (perhaps less streamlined) initiatives often act as a catalyzer for the strategic integration of sustainability.

WHERE TO START?
  • There are plenty of opportunities at the office. Think of sorting waste, printing on recycled paper and collecting empty cartridges.
  • You could switch to renewable energy.
  • Plastic is an absolute no-go. Join the P.E.T. FREE Movement by banning plastic cups and disposable cutlery.

Make a habit of distinguishing between long-term and short-term goals. Transportation is a case in point:

  • Consider these quick and easy ways to improve your transportation operations:
  • Installing ‘short chains’, combining deliveries and rethinking your overall logistical flow are important long-term strategies.
    • Reflect on the amount of transport involved in your chain. How do your fabrics and accessories get to the manufacturer? Does your prototyping phase involve any transportation operations? How do your items get from the factory to your head office? Do they go to retailers from there? And how about your online sales? 
NEED MORE INSPIRATION?
  • Use these checklists to make sure you don’t overlook any sustainability actions at the office and in your retail stores (in Dutch).
  • Or how about this extensive list, compiled by the Dutch CSR organization, which contains no less than 100 tips (in Dutch)?
  • Maybe the cases featured on the website of CSR Flanders (in Dutch) will get your sustainability juices flowing.

tips&tricks

  • Eco-Age - British consultancy firm that encourages organizations to become more sustainable
    Eco-Age is a consultancy firm that encourages organizations and companies to ‘green up’ their act. Eco-age offers solutions and opportunities to o…
    Read more

  • Sustainable printing
    There are a few no-effort options to reduce the environmental impact of your printing. Keep these quick wins in mind: Print only when nece…
    Read more

  • Sustainable marketing: from stuff to story
    Sustainable marketing probably reminds you of environmentally friendly labels and packaging materials, or recycled paper leaflets. Such initiative…
    Read more

  • Draw up an action plan with the Planner
    Looking to take the green road, but having trouble planning your route or getting lost among the many options available? Rest assured: the Planner…
    Read more

  • Don’t lose sight of your transportation costs and infrastructure
    While it is crucial to think about the entire lifecycle of the products you make, there are a few additional things that you’ve got to keep in min…
    Read more

  • MVO Vlaanderen (CSR Flanders)
    Go to the website of MVO Vlaanderen (CSR Flanders) to find out all there is to know about corporate social responsibility.
    Read more

  • Take the CSR-test
    To get an idea of where your company stands in terms of respect to sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) -- and to find out if t…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Draw up an action plan with the Planner

The yearly Green Week, the occasional Fair Trade breakfast, a day of volunteering with local nursing homes, … Though these initiatives deserve praise, you have to do more to really inject CSR into the DNA of your organization.

It takes only five steps to evolve from individual, ad hoc initiatives to a fully developed sustainability policy.

  1. Rally support for your sustainability plans by getting the most important stakeholders involved. That’s your employees, at the very least. Have them take part in a work group, for instance.
  2. Include sustainability in the mission and vision of your company.
  3. Draw up an action plan.
  4. Execute that plan.
  5. Use the results you achieve to improve and/or further develop your plan.

Steps 1, 2, 4 and 5 are probably easy to grasp. Is step 3 less self-evident? Let us help you draw up an action plan in five steps.

  1. Map the themes that matter most to your organization. To make sure that nothing gets overlooked, we developed a ‘Close The Loop Planner’. The Planner walks you through every step of the chain, feeding you questions to make you reflect on the most important topics for your organization. Would you like to do a final check? The ISO 26000 standard lends a helping hand.
  2. Break the goals that emerge from the Planner into specific actions and make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
  3. To determine your starting point, a baseline measurement comes in handy for some aspects of your business. There are several scans and tools available to help you with that. Cultuurzaam, an organization that wants to put sustainability center stage in the youth and cultural sectors, as well as in the media industry, has composed a practical list (in Dutch).
  4. Establish your priorities. A few tips:
    • You have identified your quick wins. Put that information to use! It takes little time to write these actions down in a sustainability report, and the latter is the perfect starting point for your communication.
    • Move actions that require little effort yet have a big impact to the top of your to-do list. 
  5. Increase the likelihood that your action plan will come to fruition by providing answers to the following questions:
    • What’s the timeframe for achieving your targets?
    • Who is responsible?
    • Do you need a budget and, if so, do you have one?
    • When and with whom will you review the progress of the action plan?

The Planner results in an action plan that helps you answer these questions!

tips&tricks

  • Draw up an action plan with the Planner
    Looking to take the green road, but having trouble planning your route or getting lost among the many options available? Rest assured: the Planner…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Get the entire company involved

You have no doubt thought long and hard about the sustainability issues that are crucial to your organization. Yet sustainability is not a one-man show. The success of your project will depend on the support of your colleagues and the level of engagement of all the members of the organization. So don’t forget to ...

INVEST IN INTERNAL COMMUNICATION

Get your employees and/or colleagues involved in your sustainability story. The sooner they are on board, the more ideas and actions they will support and come up with. Don’t neglect the management either, because the first steps towards a more sustainable organization often require some change management skills.

ENGAGE YOUR STORE STAFF AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

Both these teams are crucial to get your message across. Imagine a well thought-out CSR strategy that goes completely unnoticed because your employees fail to adequately answer your customers’ questions… Heartbreaking, right? Make sure your store staff and customer service team are able to provide customers with the right information or refer them to the right person.

IMPROVE YOUR AFTER-SALES SUPPORT

Your store staff can also play a part at the end of the chain, when your item is already hanging in your customer’s closet. Giving advice on how to mend and maintain the clothes you sell, as well as on what to do with clothes that are no longer wanted, are part and parcel of a circular approach.

tips&tricks

  • Draw up an action plan with the Planner
    Looking to take the green road, but having trouble planning your route or getting lost among the many options available? Rest assured: the Planner…
    Read more

  • Fashion Revolution - a global movement striving for transparency in fashion
    Fashion Revolution is a global movement that strives for more transparency and honest working conditions in the clothing business. They believe in…
    Read more

  • How transparant are the labels you wear?
    Fashion Transparancy Index A review of 100 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about…
    Read more

  • Know your product inside out - be critical
    Make sure you know exactly how your product is made, from beginning to end. Go through all the steps, which are also listed on the homepage of thi…
    Read more

  • Terminology
    Bio-eco-vegan-fairtrade … What’s in a name? When you’re lost in semantics, make sure to check the website of Eco Fashion World or the glossary of …
    Read more

  • Sustainable marketing: from stuff to story
    Sustainable marketing probably reminds you of environmentally friendly labels and packaging materials, or recycled paper leaflets. Such initiative…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Move transparency and communication to the top of your list

CSR is all about transparency. The importance of regularly informing your employees should be clear by now, but your stakeholders and customers should be kept up to speed on your approach, your plans and your results as well.

It goes without saying that your information should be 100% correct at all times. Greenwashing, or misleading customers about your sustainability efforts or the environmental benefits of your product, is deadly for your business in these times of quick tweets and snappy posts.

Don’t wait for perfection, but communicate about the bumps in the road as well. Sustainability is never ‘done’: there are always things you can improve on.

How you communicate your sustainability efforts is completely up to you. Here are a few beautiful stories to inspire you:

Want to do everything by the CSR book? Then a sustainability report is a good idea. You can create one using the Global Reporting Initiative standard (and a little outside assistance if it’s your first time). This allows you to turn your communication strategy into a measurement and management tool. A few examples to get you going:

Thinking of working with sustainability labels, but no idea where to start? Have a look at the Labelinfo website (in Dutch) or use the Clean Clothes Campaign to learn the ins and outs of labels, trademarks and management systems.

tips&tricks

  • Draw up an action plan with the Planner
    Looking to take the green road, but having trouble planning your route or getting lost among the many options available? Rest assured: the Planner…
    Read more

  • Fashion Revolution - a global movement striving for transparency in fashion
    Fashion Revolution is a global movement that strives for more transparency and honest working conditions in the clothing business. They believe in…
    Read more

  • How transparant are the labels you wear?
    Fashion Transparancy Index A review of 100 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about…
    Read more

  • Project Provenance - Knowledge center for transparency
    The London-based Project Provenance Ltd is a platform that gathers knowledge about transparent production chains, sustainability and ethical guide…
    Read more

  • Sustainable marketing: from stuff to story
    Sustainable marketing probably reminds you of environmentally friendly labels and packaging materials, or recycled paper leaflets. Such initiative…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

case selector

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