Organizations with well-defined social responsibility programs can improve their brand reputation, attract more job candidates and customers, and increase employee engagement.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs arose from the understanding that businesses function as a part of society—the success of each deeply affects the other. The importance of corporate social responsibility has increased in recent years, in large part due to the growing influence of millennials. According to the Brookings Institute, within 10 years millennials will represent three quarters of the workforce. For this generation, brand loyalty belongs to companies that offer actionable solutions to specific social problems. Eighty-three percent of millennials expect businesses to try harder and achieve more with their social responsibility programs, according to a recent study.
This discerning generation is seeking out companies to work for and to patronize that make genuine contributions to charitable and social causes. This shift in values makes a real difference financially. A report by the Harvard Business Review pointed out that there is a strong link between CSR programs and profitability: "CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed—it can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage."
Additionally, the US Federal Reserve found that three out of four (74 percent) of the highest revenue companies in the US now have CSR programs. Globally, the percentage of CSR reporting organizations rose to 80 percent of the world's largest corporations.
From an HR standpoint, corporate social responsibility programs are instrumental in helping employees feel more engaged and more aligned with the company's mission, vision, and values. According to Forbes, "More and more, executive management came to realize that employees expected choice and access in their giving and volunteering."
How can companies allow their employees to get involved with social responsibility at work? Here are some examples of how companies are encouraging employees to get involved with social responsibility programs:
- Toyota offers each employee a $250 grant to their favorite charity after they complete 50 hours of public service.
- HP allows employees to take four paid hours for volunteering each month.
- Timberland invites and encourages employees, business partners, and even customers to get involved in its volunteering efforts.
- KPMG hosts recognition award dinners where senior managers personally congratulate employees who excel in volunteering.
Other popular CSR programs include the coordination of group trips for employees to volunteer together during the work day, and employer matching for employee donations to specified charities.
The future of business belongs to millennials, who are the largest population group in US history and already outnumber baby boomers. They were raised with concerns about society and the environment, and they look to businesses to solve the world's greatest problems. Meanwhile, many of the world's most successful organizations have incorporated social responsibility into their core brand mission and messaging.
At Achievers, we’re such big believers in the power of CSR for employee engagement that we’ve dedicated one of our Achievers 50 Most Engaged Elite 8 Awards to corporate social responsibility. In 2015 the honor went to Netsuite, Inc. for initiatives led by its corporate citizenship arm, Netsuite.org.