The idea of corporate social responsibility has existed for more than half a century.
The recent events of hardship and disruption that reshaped our world caused many to reevaluate the interdependence of healthy societies, economies, and the environment. Hence, companies can no longer exclude themselves from significant societal issues like climate change and social injustice.
We have only recently seen companies place this new concept of sustainability on their agenda and embrace social responsibility at their core.
According to Jim Kerr, a management consultant and leadership coach at Indispensable Consulting, “CEOs need to be prepared to take social responsibility programs past the “usual fare.” Stances on pollution, clean energy, and local charities’ support are simply table stakes. Research suggests that a vast majority of staffers today want their top leaders to step in when the government does not fix societal problems, and many are willing to transition to other organizations if they see that their top leaders are not actively taking steps to reshape society for the better.”
Nowadays, corporations are expected to take a stance on certain societal issues and display their values in practice.
What Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
Corporate social responsibility is a broad term, and it can hold a different meaning for every business. Essentially, it means that organizations are expected to be “socially responsible” and are held accountable for their impact on all aspects of society and the broader ecosystem.
Corporations need to be committed to impacting the triple bottom line (TBL) of social, economic, and environmental performance. The saying “people, planet, and profit” is often used to outline the meaning behind the triple bottom line.
Krista Haws, Editor at DrippedCoffee, highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility activities for the workplace. She said, “Any company involved in activities that improve quality of life by undertaking efforts to protect the environment or doing just about anything to contribute to society or the planet in any way promotes a culture filled with positivity. And this positivity rubs off on employees and the everyday work environment of the organization too.
CSR activities relay the message that it’s not just about work, productivity, profits, and competition. This vision enables employees to think beyond their usual work responsibilities and view their jobs also as opportunities to truly make a difference.”
Who are CSR Initiatives for?
CSR initiatives help society, but they also improve the brand image of companies.
In this past decade, as corporations recognized this as a win-win situation, many companies started to identify as socially responsible. Smaller businesses lagged behind as many were wary that these initiatives would impact their bottom line.
However, it is wrong to assume that these initiatives are only beneficial and exclusive to big corporations.
Many small-and-mid-sized businesses are proudly carrying designations or seals, such as low-profit limited liability companies (L3Cs), social purpose corporations (SPCs), and B Corporations (B Corps).
Indeed, the efforts made by smaller organizations will not be as publicized as those of big corporations. Despite that, a quality strategy can be a powerful marketing tool and enhance a company’s reputation.
Even small substantive efforts can accumulate and lead to a positive change, which is why many organizations are hiring CSR consultants to identify possible CSR efforts that will match the budget and size of the company. Simply put, companies of all sizes can exercise good corporate citizenship.
This sentiment is reflected by Vartika Kashyap, Chief Marketing Officer of Proofhub. She states, “A CSR program is an excellent method to keep employees happy while also generating positive results in the business and society.
To engage employees, you don’t need a large, complicated CSR program. Begin by providing little chances for employees to give back, such as allowing them to donate to special causes or to disaster relief efforts in times of need. Make it clear to employees how quick and easy it is to donate.
Allowing employees to volunteer or undertake philanthropic work for a nonprofit of their choice on 1-2 paid days per year is also an option. Employees’ participation and engagement at work can be increased by encouraging them to work together in groups to achieve a volunteer or fundraising goal. It’s a terrific way to get staff to bond for a good cause, whether departments compete or organizations get together to serve the community.
Last but not least, make sure that senior executives are participating in humanitarian activities for the right reasons, not merely for the sake of a picture. Transparency with senior leadership is a major motivator of employee engagement and participation.”
Why Many CSR Initiatives Don't Work?
Even though a CSR strategy can be an effective marketing strategy, if a company’s efforts are not genuine, this business objective can easily backfire.
Greenwashing, pseudo-social responsibility, and demonstrating self-serving CSR efforts just for the sake of virtue signaling and economic gains will have a deleterious effect. When corporations only talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, their efforts will be perceived as disingenuous.
If employees question the authenticity of the company’s efforts, the involvement and success of the CSR initiative will be very unlikely.
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew, VP of Community Affairs at the State Fair of Texas, reminds us of the focal point of CSR initiatives. According to Dr. Froswa’ “Corporate Social Responsibility programs are important, but it depends upon the company’s investment and dedication to the communities they are in or their areas of focus.
So often, companies see CSR as an extension of their PR efforts. It’s important to remember that your community of customers makes it possible for your company to enjoy a profit.
CSR is a real opportunity for a company to impact the trajectory of its employees, partners, and community. CSR is more than writing checks; it is about bringing the gifts, skills, and talents of your employees as a part of the experience. It creates synergy for employees to support something that makes a difference, especially when outcomes are met, and lives are impacted. “
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When we talk about responsibility, we have to mention people’s personal responsibility to contribute and give back to society. An individual’s social responsibility (ISR) can be fulfilled by donating, volunteering, recycling, or engaging in other good causes.
As a result, more and more workers participate in employee giving programs, make donations, or engage in other charitable acts to realize this social responsibility.
On the other hand, when considering the primary responsibilities an organization has to fulfill from most to least important, we find this depicted in a pyramid structure.
Best represented in Carroll’s “Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility,” we observe four different levels of responsibilities that companies need to fulfill – Economic, Legal, Ethical, and Philanthropic.
- The first responsibility in the pyramid of corporate social responsibility is an economic one, or to be profitable. If a company is profitable, employees can keep their jobs longer and produce goods and services for their communities.
- The second level is the legal responsibility which requires organizations to operate within the law at the locations where they do business.
- The third level is to be ethical, consider the ecological and social impact of their operations and ethically conduct the business.
- The last level of the pyramid is the philanthropical one, which is to leave a positive mark on society, give back to their community and be a good corporate citizen.
Jase Rodley, Technical SEO Consultant, shares an insightful observation by stating, “Employees can fulfill their individual social responsibility through company programs.
While reflecting a brand’s commitment to improving social fabric, CSR is also about following compliances and regulations. But when it comes to employees participating in CSR activities, it’s all about a bunch of individuals doing their bit for society.
And when their job offers workers the opportunity and the resources to do good and create social impact, this helps members of the workforce assign even more value to their job. An increase in motivation, more positivity at the workplace, employee retention, and the general feeling of doing some good while doing their jobs are all positive outcomes of CSR exercises.”
Many studies show that consumers are increasingly interested in adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. From ditching single-use plastics to buying more local goods, consumers choose brands that match their environmental and ethical values.
In fact, nearly 28% of consumers stopped purchasing certain brands and products because of ethical and sustainability concerns.
The Great Resignation highlighted the need to address better working conditions and protection. This includes fair rewards, responsible hiring practices, decent living wages, and building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture.
Not only is this new pursuit of a more sustainable lifestyle reflected in consumers’ behaviors, but we also see it in the employees’ demands for new and improved work standards.
To better understand the rising importance of sustainability and ethical practices, we also need to consider the demographic shifts in the labor market.
As studies show, Gen Z is adopting more sustainable behaviors than any other generation. Understanding the biggest generations in the workplace and aligning with the values of Millennials and Gen Z will give employers a significant competitive advantage.
Employers that engage in CSR initiatives will recruit, retain and motivate younger workers better than those who do not.
Cody Crawford, Co-founder of Low Offset, confirms this sentiment by stating, “CSR can create a happier and more dynamic workplace atmosphere for employees. This is important for attracting new talent and maintaining a competitive edge in an increasingly tight labor market.
Because companies that engage in CSR often give back to their local community or society as a whole, employees may feel like they are helping those who need it most, increasing happiness and job satisfaction among employees.
Furthermore, employees may develop increased engagement with their work when they see how their efforts contribute to social responsibility efforts.”
Companies’ shared value with employees’ ethical and sustainable practices are critical drivers of organizational success and growth for businesses. To summarize, consumers, workers, and stakeholders all prioritize socially conscious brands.
How Do Employees Benefit from CSR?
You might be wondering how CSR initiatives affect employees or if they have any effect at all. Is social responsibility really a factor when it comes to work satisfaction?
It turns out research has shown that CSR activities positively affect employees’ intrinsic motivation. This means that CSR positively affects that motivation that is otherwise difficult to be influenced simply by monetary incentives.
The response from Clare Jones, Outreach Manager at Custom Neon, affirms this sentiment further. She notes, “I’ve had numerous conversations with colleagues about CSR and the vast majority of them have all said the same thing, that the feeling of accomplishment, pride, and fulfillment, that stems from supporting worthy causes and assisting society far outweighs any other perk that they have encountered in the workplace.
Implementing a solid CRS program can positively impact employees by making them feel as if they’re working towards something larger than simply the success of the business. Transparent selection of the CSR initiatives supported also allows employees to have additional agency over the direction of the business by suggesting programs near and dear to their hearts. “
Many businesses subscribe to the false notion that rewards and financial incentives are the only ways to increase employee morale. However, when employees feel that the organization’s values align with their personal convictions, it can be a powerful motivator and boost employee morale.
As Jerry Ford outlines, “CSR activities bring impactful energy into the workplace, and it is easy for employees to get involved in any activity that spells social awareness and commitment.
Being a part of these activities brings about enthusiasm and results in creativity boosts that also rejuvenates the work environment. Whether an employee tags it a break from the usual or an opportunity to add more value to the job, the energy is always welcome.
This surge of energy that any involvement in CSR activities brings stays on for a while, making the workplace warmer and livelier.”
How Companies Can Motivate Employees with CSR?
By now, you should have an idea of the benefits and impact a robust CSR strategy can have in a business. But what does it mean in practice?
In other words, what are some corporate social responsibility examples from companies that identify as socially responsible? We have gathered many successful stories from companies practicing CSR, and they shared their experiences.
When asked about their company’s CSR strategy, Nathan Hughes, Digital Marketing and SEO manager at Diggity Marketing, shared, “To answer your question, yes, we use CSR in our company. With CSR, the employees in our company were able to connect with the customers more, get them to pitch in the ideas, and enjoy an increased loyal base.
In addition, CSR taught our employees about what it took to develop a responsible business. In addition to positive media attention, I take pleasure in saying that CSR enabled our employees to see how much we valued them. This, in turn, helped them stay with our company in response to our positive enforcements. ”
This shared view is also reflected in a response from Salvador Ordorica, CEO of The Spanish Group. “Yes, we have a corporate social responsibility program, and we’ve discovered a correlation between employee impressions of CSR and their work engagement. I saw that employee identification with the organization grew when we hired the CSR in our company,” said Mr. Ordorica.
He added, “When it comes to deciding how strongly employees identify with their employer, social responsibility may be more essential than financial success. Employees have a stronger sense of identity with their company when they believe the company is socially responsible. Employees will be pleased to be on the job and feel a stronger connection to the task they’re performing due to their heightened identification.”
Another insight provided by James Parkinson, Copywriter at Personnel Checks, notes, “Our corporate social responsibility program gives our employees confidence that they are working for a company that has the best interests of not just them, but also the wider community at heart.
With an ever-increasing focus on ‘supporting local,’ it’s clear that this needs to be adopted by businesses as well as individuals. We always try to be mindful that our program doesn’t take the emphasis off supporting our employees in favor of others. We achieve this by ensuring that our employees are involved in setting and working on projects linked to corporate social responsibility.”
To recap, these examples point to the increasing importance of corporate social responsibility and the significant role these initiatives can play in motivating employees.
Today’s workforce demands that employers show a higher level of responsibility within their community and globally. Businesses need to show they care beyond maximizing profits and pursue other pro-social causes that positively influence the world around them. By doing so, a company can motivate its workers, attract top talent, and demonstrate its core values in practice.
- HRM’s Role in Corporate Social and Environmental Sustainability – SHRM
- Shifting sands: Are consumers still embracing sustainability? (2021) – Deloitte
- Sustainable at the core, Seeding Bring Futures (2021) – Mercer
- Xu, Y. and Liu, Y. (2016) Pseudo Corporate
- Social Responsibility and Governance Mechanism
- Social Responsibility – Saylor Academy
- Rank, S., Contreras, F. – Do Millennials pay attention to Corporate Social Responsibility in comparison to previous generations?
- True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies (2018) – McKinsey