Whether you work for a big or small business, chances are you’ve heard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The purpose of CSR is to give back to the community, take part in philanthropic causes, and provide positive social value ¹ . CSR is a thoughtful and practical way to give back to society. When companies are mindful of their social and environmental impact on the world, they can benefit society by giving back and helping to find solutions to everyday issues.
In a 2017 study published by Cone Communications, they stated that, “companies must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for”. Today’s employees, especially millennials, expect to work for a company that gives back. Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), said “millennials want to ‘do good and do well’ ” ² . Volunteering and community leadership have been proven to lift employee morale and instill confidence in both management and the company itself. According to CSR expert, Malcolm Scovil, “employees generally feel motivated to work for companies, knowing that they care about wider society and they’re more likely to be productive and put extra effort in for those organizations” ³ . By creating and participating in CSR initiatives, companies have the opportunity showcase their core values and create trust among employees and their customers.
Advantages to Corporate Social Responsibility
Companies can demonstrate their CSR in several different ways, including donations, employee volunteering, implementing environmentally safe processes, and more. Their efforts, whether large or small, can say a lot about the organization. Companies that consistently demonstrate their commitment to CSR initiatives are recognizing their ability to help their community and acting on that knowledge. Four benefits to Corporate Social Responsibility include ⁴ :
- Increased employee satisfaction—the way a company treats its community says a lot about how a company treats its employees. People that feel respected and supported in their jobs are often more productive and satisfied at work. Giving your employees opportunities to volunteer, especially during working hours, creates a sense of community within your organization, as well as a connection to the surrounding community
- Public image—In today’s digital age, companies that demonstrate corporate social responsibility are gaining exposure and praise for their involvements. A brand’s reputation can only benefit from good deeds in the community and consumers are more likely to buy products from a company that is helping their community.
- Customer loyalty—in a 2016 Neilson survey, 56% of participants said “a brand being known for its social value” was a top purchasing driver. And 53% of participants said “a brand with community commitment” was a leading purchasing driver. If a company’s corporate value aligns with a consumer’s personal ones, they are more likely to give business to the company.
- Increased creativity—CSR initiatives encourage employees to try new things and get re-energized about their jobs. Corporate volunteering will not only help the community but can also improve employees’ morale and productivity. Additionally, when a company’s values and passions are demonstrated through CSR initiatives, employees are more likely to feel encouraged to develop new and better ways to do their jobs.
In its 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, Nielson indicated that, globally, 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. As advertising and marketing become more important for a company’s success, millennials are expecting their favorite companies to make public statements of their corporate social responsibility. Millennials are looking for four major qualities in socially responsible companies ⁵ :
- They want companies to be actively invested in the betterment of society and the solution of social problems.
- They want companies that prioritize “making an impact” on the world around them.
- They want companies to be open and honest about their efforts—and to be public about their pro-social initiatives.
- Millennials want companies to involve their customers in their good works. They want an opportunity to give back—whether it’s with a gift of their time or their money.
With millennials projected to be 50% of the workforce by 2020 ⁶ , companies should pay close attention to what millennials are deeming as important purchasing drivers. Conveying CSR efforts to millennials involves authenticity, and a unique approach as most millennials grew up with the Internet and want their voices to be heard. Companies can bring their CSR efforts to life through authentic storytelling. What millennials want to know is what companies are planning on doing, to make the world a better place.
The Importance of Getting Employees Excited about CSR Initiatives
Ensuring that a company shares what employees in that location are doing to give back to communities can make employees feel like their work is important and seen. Employee volunteerism is difficult work, and employees do it on top of their daily work responsibilities. If the employee volunteer program is perceived as important, it can go a long way in making employees feel important. Having employee volunteer contacts in different areas of the company who are responsible for finding and sharing stories about employee community efforts can go a long way in increasing employee participation. In addition to employee volunteer recognition, companies should provide ongoing learning opportunities for their employees. People who love to volunteer are typically always looking for other ways to help their surrounding communities. Providing opportunities such as bias training, courses on equity, diversity and inclusion, or having guest speakers from local organizations come in are just a few ways companies can give more access to their employees ⁷ .
There is no one perfect example of CSR as it can take on many forms. From environmental programs such as efforts to reduce a company’s carbon footprint, philanthropic efforts such as fundraisers or charities, or volunteering programs providing employees with paid time to volunteer in their local community, there are several routes a company can take to affect change in their communities. However, it’s important for a company to make efforts to include all employees when deciding which initiative to support. There are several advantages in including employees at every stage ⁸ :
- Employees can come up with innovative ideas on how to make an impact in the community.
- Employees are more likely to believe in the importance of the organization’s CSR initiative and as a result, become more committed to the organization.
- Employees are more likely to contribute to work they find meaningful.
Moreover, this can further boost company morale and instill confidence in both employees and management. Demonstrating that the company care about its employees’ input can also increase participation. If employees are offered the opportunity to come up with ideas on which initiatives to support, they are more likely to be excited and be active participants. Furthermore, this can increase employees’ creativity by giving them the chance to create new and original ideas. Employees have been shown to be more engaged and perform better when they feel good about their company’s CSR initiatives⁹.
The Bottom Line
In today’s day and age, a commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer optional. Employees and customers are more connected, more informed and making more responsible decisions about where they spend their careers and their money. Social and environmental issues are important, with a growing expectation and demand that a company makes a positive impact beyond sales. Not only do companies have the ability to make an impact in their communities, they have a responsibility to do so. An investment in CSR initiatives is good for the company, its employees and the community.