Be smart. Do good. That’s a simple, yet powerful message for companies that want to have a positive public image. Particularly in today’s world, your company’s brand, reputation, and involvement in the community play an important role on your current and potential consumers’ interest in doing business with you. In addition, your company’s community involvement, or lack thereof, is playing an increasingly important role in your ability to attract and retain talent.
Why is Corporate Social Responsibility important?
There seems to be a growing cultural shift recognizing the importance of giving back to our communities and an expectation that companies take the lead. You’ve seen community service incorporated into high school graduation requirements, and you’ve likely participated in a 5K, donation drive, or a happy hour event supporting a worthy cause. People are leveraging the influence and power that they can have through how they spend their time and dollars. Today, it’s no longer enough for a company to provide great products and services. Now more than ever, consumers are factoring in a company’s behavior and actions in the local and broader community as they make their purchase decisions. Many consumers expect companies to purposefully make a positive impact on their communities and to take a stand on key issues facing society. If you don’t, they are likely to spend their dollars elsewhere.
In a recent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Study, Cone Communications found:
- 7 in 10 (70%) Americans believe companies have an obligation to take actions to improve issues that may not be relevant to everyday business operations
- 87% said they’d purchase a product because that company advocated for an issue they cared about
- 87% of consumers consider it important that a company invest in causes in their community and around the globe.
The Cone CSR Study also found that when a company supports a social or environmental issue, 92% of consumers say they have a more positive image of the company and 87% are more likely to trust the company. In a day and age when consumer trust seems to be waning, this should perk up the ears of business owners as an opportunity to shine.
How Corporate Social Responsibility impacts talent attraction and retention
Today’s job candidates and employees are interested in working for companies that have strong values and a strong commitment to the local and broader communities. Companies with corporate social responsibility initiatives that provide opportunities for employees to make a positive impact in their communities are better positioned to attract new talent and to retain those who are aligned with your values. Your corporate social responsibility opportunities can strengthen your employees’ connection with what’s important to them, which in turn helps to strengthen their connection to your company.
A recent Cone Communications’ Employee Engagement Study, found that 58% of U.S. job seekers assess a company’s corporate social responsibility behavior when making employment decisions, and over half of U.S. job seekers are not willing to work for a company that doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility initiatives. This survey also noted that employees find their jobs to be more fulfilling when they have the opportunity to make a positive impact on social issues at work, and they are more likely to be loyal to their employer because of it.
What is also notable from this study, and can be seen in the chart below, is the dramatic increased intensity of millennial’s views on corporate social responsibility. If recruitment and retention of millennials is part of your company’s talent acquisition strategy, then having a robust corporate social responsibility strategy must go hand in hand.
Chart adapted from Cone Communications 2016 Employee Engagement Study
Getting started with your Corporate Social Responsibility
If you want to get started with the development of your corporate social responsibility initiatives and you have an interest and commitment to sustaining your initiatives, it’s important that your corporate social responsibility be incorporated into your business model. Also, do your research! There are plenty of successful corporate social responsibility initiatives currently being implemented, so you can learn from the success of others to help shape how you may want to impact social, environmental, or community issues.
Consider creating an employee-led social responsibility team that can brainstorm and help to steer the direction of your corporate social responsibility plan. This group can also lead the organization of company-wide volunteer events, donation drives, fundraisers for community causes, etc. It’s also wise to guide this team’s direction to ensure that your corporate social responsibility efforts are in line with your company’s interests and values, in addition to those of your employees.
Companies of all sizes can (and should!) implement corporate social responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility opportunities are not reserved for large companies alone, rather small and mid-sized organizations can build corporate social responsibility into their business models as well. There are many ways to implement your corporate social responsibility activities. Some companies encourage employees to leverage their own unique skills and knowledge, and to share their professional expertise with organizations that can benefit. For example, those with design or technical skills can be connected to non-profit organizations that can benefit from their expertise by designing or enhancing their websites. Some organizations have developed foundations or scholarships to support their employees’ community involvement, while many others organize company-wide volunteering events. Below I’ll share some corporate social responsibility initiatives that we’ve either seen or implemented ourselves in hopes that these provide some inspiration for developing your own initiatives.
Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
An emerging benefit that is gaining popularity is the concept of Volunteer Time Off (VTO). This can be a great way for companies to show their commitment to social responsibility and to the individual interests of their employees by providing paid time off for employees to volunteer toward the non-profit causes of their choice.
Community Service Endowments, Scholarships, and Foundations
Some organizations have chosen to create scholarships or endowments to provide financial support to their employees who are working hard to make a difference in their local or global communities. We’re proud to shine a spotlight on one of our clients, Oxford Physical Therapy Centers, for creating the Bill Walker Community Service Endowment. This prestigious financial gift is awarded annually to an employee who lives out the mission of Oxford Physical Therapy Centers by serving their community and has a desire to engage in community service or mission work with a focus on Healthcare.
Other organizations have developed foundations to help sustain their corporate social responsibility initiatives. For example, InfoTrust (another amazing client of ours) has developed the InfoTrust Foundation. Their mission is to leverage their own growth as an opportunity to give back to their local communities and beyond. It is their hope to lead by example to inspire more small businesses to find meaning and value in giving back, all the while creating an awesome culture.
Company-wide Volunteer Events
If you’re looking for ways to engage your employees and to build strong teams, company-wide volunteer events can be an excellent choice. What better way to build relationships and strengthen teams than through working together to make a positive impact on your local or broader community? Not only can the act of volunteering be a team building activity, but engaging employees’ in the process of choosing the organizations and causes that you will support can also be a great team development opportunity. Also, by allowing your employees to help drive the decisions about your corporate social responsibility efforts, it will increase their connection and commitment to your organization and the causes that you support.
There are countless non-profit organizations leading worthy causes that you can consider supporting. Make sure that you choose to support corporate social responsibility activities and organizations/causes that are in line with your company’s values and mission. Make choices that make sense for your company. If you’re using an employee-led corporate social responsibility team, hopefully, this will also help to drive your corporate social responsibility efforts in a direction that positively impacts what your employees care about too. Another factor in choosing your volunteer experiences can be logistics. The size of your group can sometimes drive the volunteer work that you can do.
At strategic HR inc., one of our core values is to positively impact our community by helping those in need. We live this value by coordinating several corporate social responsibility activities throughout each year. We have organized donation drives to support school systems, families in need, the homeless, and various non-profit organizations. We have also coordinated company-wide volunteer events that have accommodated both small and large groups including:
- Ronald McDonald House of Greater Cincinnati- Taste of Hope: This is a great volunteer opportunity for groups of 4 – 12 people to help prepare and serve meals to the families who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House, allowing parents more time to focus on their critically ill children.
- Pack Shack’s “Feed the Funnel Party”: This is a high energy event where you pack thousands of delicious, healthy meals for local families in need. This is a fabulous event for groups as small as 25 and can accommodate up into the thousands! Pack Shack makes this a turn-key process to plan. All you need to do is secure an indoor venue, provide tables, funding for the meals, and volunteers. They take care of turning it into an energizing party filled with music and fun! Because we found a venue that could accommodate a lot of people, we invited our clients to join us as well. This turned out to be a fantastic bonding opportunity not only for our internal team, but also for our clients! It went so well during our first year in 2018, we’re doing it again in 2019!
- Matthew 25 Ministries: This is an amazing international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization helping more than 20 million people in need each year. We have enjoyed volunteering here because we value supporting their mission, and they do a great job of selecting volunteer tasks that are appropriate for the age ranges of your volunteers. They can work with groups of 4 – 100 people.
Don’t keep your corporate social responsibility a secret!
Let people know about the good you are spreading, and be sure to let them know why you’re doing it. You can share stories, pictures, and video from your corporate social responsibility events on your website and through your social media. This helps your employees, prospective candidates, and consumers to see and understand the role that your organization is playing in the world beyond your company walls.
There is so much potential for good to be done in our local and global communities. If you already have a well-established corporate social responsibility strategy, great! Keep it up! If you haven’t mobilized your corporate social responsibility initiatives, then we hope you can use the ideas shared in this article to launch your initiatives to do good!