How Socially Responsible is Your Company?

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is a big part of having an engaged workforce. A company whose very mission is CSR will be very attractive to many engaged workers!

Many CSR activities are inexpensive or free to launch, and pay significant engagement benefits. If you’re looking to incorporate CSR into your organization, consider these tips:

  • Allow employees to take one paid service day per year with an approved nonprofit or charitable organization.

  • Establish a matching contribution program with a charitable organization such as the Red Cross in the aftermath of a natural disaster or national emergency, when funds are needed.

  • Establish a CSR committee to communicate, suggest, and solicit ideas.

  • “Brand” any CSR programs in your organization. Obviously, this includes formal CSR programs launched by your company, but it should also include any informal CSR programs that may exist.

    They’re there — you just may not be aware of them! You can bet that your employees are already championing activities like walks for hunger, corporate challenges, food drives, and other forms of volunteerism. Consider forming a task team consisting of a cross-section of volunteers to hunt down these ad-hoc activities.

  • Establish a “green” program with a focus on recycling, water conservation, and other environmentally sensitive initiatives.

  • Launch a “chain reaction” initiative in which you ask for volunteers (they’re out there!) to identify, promote, and coordinate location-specific community events — for example, planning a walk to raise money for cancer research, participating in a charity road race, or working at the local soup kitchen.

  • Use CSR initiatives to reward employees. For example, you might give employees who win your Innovation Idea of the Month contest a free day for community service or a nominal cash award (say, $100), which they can donate to their favorite charity.

  • In the spirit of “walk the talk,” schedule time at the next executive offsite meeting for the executive team to work on a socially responsible activity. For example, the team could partner with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild a community hit by a tornado or flood.

The great thing about CSR programs is, you get as much as you give — if not more. Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, notes: “The one consistent takeaway from all company volunteers is that they receive more than they give when they work on one of our homebuilding projects.”

Interestingly, CSR is important across the generational spectrum. Generation Y workers are purpose-driven by their very nature. But Baby Boomers, too, have demonstrated a growing interest in social responsibility as they enter the “back nine” of their careers. Having attained hierarchical and monetary success, many Boomers are asking, “How do I give back?”

Even better, because many of these Boomers are now in executive leadership positions, they’re even going so far as to ask, “How can I persuade my company to give back?” Increasingly, Baby Boomers are pushing their employers to donate to charities, reduce their carbon footprint, and support volunteerism. This cross-generational interest in social responsibility is a powerful means of staff cohesion, as well as a key engagement driver — one that you cannot afford to neglect.

To get the most bang for your CSR buck, be sure to publicize your investments both internally and externally. You can also embed CSR efforts into your organizational metrics — again, reiterating the connection between measurement and results.

Be warned: CSR isn’t just some program you can cut when the bottom line slips. It must be embedded in the very essence of your company. If your leadership sees it as a “flavor of the month” initiative, your employees will quickly detect its transitory nature. Implementing a policy of social responsibility means following through. If you don’t, the internal perception — and maybe even the external perception — will be negative, to say the least!

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