With January being a time for reflection and planning, you may be asking yourself: What are my objectives this year and what will I accomplish?

Sometimes, our big picture goals feel enormous and far away. If you’re a distributor who’s looking to improve your corporate social responsibility (CSR) impact in 2024, I’d like to offer some help by breaking down transformational change into 12 steps that anyone can take. You can pick one each month to focus on, which all adds up to consistent effort and impact.

Let’s begin:

  1. Ask Your Suppliers Questions

Ask your top suppliers what they’re doing in the realm of CSR and use their knowledge to help educate you and your sales staff. So many suppliers in our industry have been working hard in the background on their ESG initiatives and would love to tell you about them.

  1. Ask Your Clients Questions

Start by asking what their CSR/ESG priorities are, so that you can best match your efforts to what matters most to them. Taking the initiative to proactively talk to your clients about this will show that you’re forward thinking, and you’ll also have an extra reason to check in with those you haven’t landed a deal with recently.

  1. Measure

Figure out how you can track your spend with diverse-owned or sustainably certified suppliers. Will your order management platform keep track? Having a baseline understanding of your spend with these groups will enable you to make strategic decisions in how you vote with your buying power.

  1. Community Involvement

What local initiatives can you get involved in to better your community? Some examples are sponsoring a local sports team, giving your employees time to volunteer with a local organization aligned with your values or donating merch to an organization in need. Your impact locally will have the most immediate return and you know the saying: start local, think global.

  1. Pulse Check

When was the last time you sent out an internal employee satisfaction survey? This is a great tool that not only ensures any HR initiatives you have planned will land well, but also helps you prioritize what’s most important to your workforce.

  1. Encourage

Speaking of employees, encourage anyone on your team who’s passionate about sustainability to start an internal CSR committee or task force. Folks who are passionate about this really want to help, and research shows that this is an increasingly important topic to the generation currently entering the workforce.

  1. Review

Review your recycling, waste and packaging programs. Can you transition to digital documentation to go paperless? Where can you reuse packaging more efficiently? Is there an opportunity to eliminate single-use plastics in your office or lunchroom? Even encouraging more recycling through education can be very impactful. Reach out to your local municipality to confirm exactly what can and can’t be recycled so that you can share that knowledge with everyone from your shipping department to your accountant.

  1. Create

We all work in marketing, right? Build a cause-related marketing campaign by offering a set percentage of your sales to support charitable organizations that are aligned with your company mission and values. Ensure you educate your team on the thought process behind your decision so that they can properly pitch it to clients and speak about what you want to accomplish with the campaign.

RELATED: B Corp Certification: Why Promo Pros Endure The Painstaking Process

  1. Expand

Increase your reach by hiring and recruiting from underrepresented groups. Look to job boards or websites that attract a range of diverse job seekers to give you a competitive edge.

  1. Avoid

Reduce any potentially deceptive advertising and commit to ethical marketing practices in your sustainability claims. Simplify your client-facing communication: Highlight your wins rather than vague long-term goals and invite conversation instead of making standalone statements.

  1. Provide

Educate your clients on the benefits of eco-friendly and sustainable promo items, which ties back to asking your suppliers questions about their CSR/ESG initiatives.

  1. Solicit

Ask for feedback. This can be as formal as engaging a third-party auditing company or using one of the many assessments available online (notably, the B Impact Assessment is a great, free tool) or as informal as putting the question to your team in a group discussion.

Elizabeth Wimbush is PPAI’s director of corporate responsibility and sustainability.