Cannabis companies are part of the larger community within which they operate and have the opportunity to exert a great deal of influence on different areas of society, from protecting the environment to caring for their employees.
During the time of COVID-19, it is even more important for them to implement initiatives from which the whole community can benefit. Many have already made contributions during this time, from making hand sanitizer to delivering protective gear to the front lines.
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR)
The concept of corporate social responsibility has been hotly debated over the years, with some people arguing that the only responsibility of a company is to make a profit as long as it engages in free competition without any fraud or deception.
However, the idea of CSR has become increasingly important in recent years. Many companies voluntarily choose to contribute to society in some way and to support a cleaner environment. Consumers also contribute to this change in attitude because they expect it of companies and will support those who make an impact.
In recent years, the idea of shared value is spreading, whereby benefits to society can co-exist with economic benefits to a company.
CSR industry framework
As the cannabis industry began to grow, an urgent need was identified to work together to build a responsible industry. Rick Petersen, author of corporate social responsibility framework for the Global Cannabis Partnership, says that he does not know of another industry that wanted to get CRS right straight out of the gate.
The Global Cannabis Partnership consists of legal firms, 45 cannabis companies and government agencies. When they met last year, they decided on four main principles to underpin the CRS framework – transparency, collaboration, responsibility, and ongoing improvement. The group wants to do its part to make sure the industry is socially sustainable for years to come.
Challenges to CSR in the cannabis industry
The current crisis is showing how the cannabis industry can be of service but is also highlighting some challenges that cannabis brands face.
The cannabis industry is unique due to the marketing restrictions which vary from state to state. It is often difficult to identify charities willing to partner with a cannabis or CBD company. The IRS also prevents any tax deductions for charitable donations.
Establish a relevant, consistent CRS strategy
A good CRS strategy needs to focus on what is relevant (sustainability of work, waste reduction, environmental protection), especially in times of crisis when employees and the greater community are most in need.
It is fundamental to identify priorities and to act accordingly so that any interventions are not only effective but consistent. Actions taken should link to the core business of the company. They should reinforce a company’s mission. Any hasty or superficial CRS may be seen by people as hypocritical.
Start small and increase support
Large companies like Google and Starbucks have long been establishing themselves as socially aware brands. Google Green is a CSR initiative focusing on environmental sustainability and Starbucks has addressed very sensitive issues, such as the environmental impact of the coffee supply chain and worker exploitation.
Large cannabis companies also have the resources to implement CSR at scale. During the pandemic, they made large donations of PPE for distribution to front line workers and have even set up programs for employees to request financial support anonymously.
Some smaller cannabis companies may wonder how they can make a difference. It is important for them to think local when trying to assist during the pandemic.
For example, they can look for ways to help the communities in which their employees live. They can ask employees what is most important to them and start there, increasing support as they go along. Small companies may not be able to hit all points of CSR but it is better for them to focus on the areas where they can provide a positive impact.
Take social responsibility
Cannabis companies have been donating to charities, providing employment opportunities to homeless people and giving away free products to patients.
Rollyourownpapers.com is one of the leading custom paper providers in the cannabis industry and it is employing disabled people to help process rush orders. The company has a desire to help those who have been most affected by the pandemic.
By giving disabled people an opportunity to feel valued, we are not only helping them to develop more self-esteem but they can pass the benefits to the company on to customers.
Protect the environment
As a new industry, cannabis companies do not want to contribute to the already extensive plastic waste problem. Many of them are using sustainable materials like hemp plastic or post-consumer resin. They are also investing in sustainable practices to reduce waste.
RollYourOwnPapers is helping to protect the environment by using sustainable printing methods. Our HP printer is totally carbon neutral and they use pure hemp for their paper. In fact, our proprietary unbleached 100 percent hemp papers are certified by TÜV SÜD in Germany. Our 100 percent natural Arabic gum is sourced from conflict-free growers in Africa.
Measure impact and communicate it
It is acceptable today for companies to inform their customers about their responsible business practices and charitable works. Customers are increasingly making the choice about which businesses to support based on their CSR. This is why it is important to measure the impact of any actions taken and communicate them both internally and externally.
A final word
It is in times of crisis that companies need to demonstrate that they care for the communities within which they operate. Actions should not be about just fulfilling a duty but about supporting the wider community because it is the right thing to do. Consumers who see that companies genuinely care are more likely to support them and this has a benefit for them economically. Research has shown that companies that are socially and environmentally responsible tend to outperform their peers financially.