Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) used to be viewed as the obligatory “giving back” of the big bad corporation. It’s how companies atoned for the sin of being a for-profit business. But that’s not exactly the case anymore. In a transparent, highly-connected world, there are now good companies and bad companies in the eyes of the public. Not just bad companies who try to make up for it with CSR.
In this article, we’ll share four reasons why it’s critical for companies of all sizes to become cause-driven in their CSR efforts.
1. It’s what job-seekers expect
Millennial job-seekers aren’t just looking for a paycheque, they’re looking for purpose. According to a 2015 study by Morgan Stanley, Millennials are three times more likely to seek employment at a company that actively cares about the environment and social issues.
Even more surprising is the findings of a 2016 study by Cone Communications, showing that 64 percent of millennials would turn down a job if they found out the company did not have strong CSR values, and 76 percent would take a pay decrease to work for a socially conscious company.
If you’re an HR leader, those are pretty compelling stats. Finding and retaining the best people will mean having a strong set of values that are obvious to job-seekers.
2. It’s what customers expect
CSR used to be an afterthought for companies. Sure, they would give back, but it wasn’t part of their strategic positioning. But now, customers actually make purchasing decisions based on the strength of the social and environmental positioning of the brand. According to a 2017 study by Unilever, 33 percent of customers choose which company to buy from based partly on social and environmental impact.
Picking one or two social or environmental issues to align yourself with isn’t just about doing your fair share, it’s also about creating a brand that people want to buy from. While this is admittedly a more urgent issue for B2C companies, it will inevitably factor more and more into B2B purchasing decisions in the future.
3. It propels everything forward
Simon Sinek famously argued in his book “Start With Why” that the world’s most successful companies are driven by purpose, not profits. Citing companies like Apple and Southwest Airlines, Sinek shows that the world’s elite companies are driven by a strong “why” that infects employees, leaders, and customers.
Keep in mind that not every “why” has to be about saving the environment or ending poverty. Your “why” should be connected to your brand, such as saving trees through your software, or saving the lives of the vulnerable through your healthcare.
When you find a strong “why”, make it obvious to everyone inside and outside the company. It will propel your whole organization forward, from recruiting to leadership development to sales.
4. It actually makes a difference
The most important reason to pursue CSR with new vigor is that it actually makes a difference.
According to Liba Rubenstein—SVP of Social Impact at 21st Century Fox—companies are swapping out the job title of “Corporate Responsibility Officer” with executive titles that have “Social Impact” in them. The reason for the shift is that a CSR program is no good if it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.
The world is too transparent and connected for companies to get away with a lip-service CSR program that isn’t rooted in actual impact. The best CSR programs will have real KPIs related to impact, not just generic volunteer numbers and dollars spent. After all, the real reason you put together a CSR program is to have an impact in the world.
Having a real CSR program that accomplishes good is quickly become a cornerstone of a strong corporate brand. If you want to attract and retain talent, build a brand customers trust, and propel your organization forward, then be prepared to align your company with a strong social or environmental issue. You’ll play a part in changing the world, and your bottom line will benefit too.