Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved dramatically over the last decade. Most companies are no longer satisfied with just writing checks to charities or sponsoring events. Now, corporate leaders are aligning social impact and employee engagement with business objectives. That means measuring results and ensuring CSR and employee engagement efforts demonstrate real value to the company.
A recent study by Glassdoor found that 75% of employees between the ages of 18 and 34 expect their employer to take a stand on important social issues, ranging from immigration and equal rights to climate change. Yet, top-down management directives never feel good, whether it’s charitable giving or social impact stances, especially when it comes to divisive issues. Alienating half of the population on any issue is not good business, nor does it help employee engagement.
In this time of tumult, polarizing politics, omnipresent social media and increasing employee expectations, companies are adjusting their tactics. For nonprofits fighting for relevance, donors and dollars to fulfill their missions and increase impact, it is critical to stay current on these changes.
These are five CSR trends for nonprofits, NGOs, and corporates in 2020
1. Authenticity Is In
Companies can no longer be silent when it comes to social issues, whether it’s #MeToo and gender equality, racism in Charlottesville or refugees and immigration. Many are setting up mechanisms for employees to share with each other, from employee-led business resource groups to all-staff gatherings to internal social media platforms.
Senior company leaders also are more likely to take a stand on issues directly by sharing personal messages both externally and internally, whether it’s a letter to customers or a video to employees. Companies understand that their customers — and employees — expect action, and many businesses are taking the time to translate that into brand and employee engagement. Still, aligning a corporate brand with social issues can backfire if it’s not done thoughtfully and with authenticity, so be sure to understand your brand, measure stakeholder interest and align with issues that resonate.
2. Communication & Transparency in CSR Is Key
To engage employees at work, leading businesses like Campbell’s are building trust through transparency. They’re using internal platforms like Workplace by Facebook, letting employees take over the company’s Instagram account, sharing purpose-inspired stories — for example, sharing the why behind recycling used coffee pods — and running company crowdsourcing campaigns to uncover original ideas, break down silos and empower employees.
Carrying that authentic communication forward, Campbell’s engages customers by leveraging the power of short videos for candid “real food” conversations on everything from GMOs to MSG to BPA through UnCanned by Campbell’s. It’s nearly impossible to have good customer communications without good employee communications first, which is why Campbell’s tackles both.
Employees have always been on the front line and serve as a company’s strongest brand ambassadors, which is why we’re seeing more companies involve them in CSR initiatives. Research shows customers are much more likely to trust what an employee says versus an official company message.
3. Diversity Has Business Impact
America is growing increasingly diverse — census estimates predict that the nation will be a majority-minority nation within 30 years. Newer CSR leaders are challenging their companies to lead by example through diversity and inclusion (D&I), not just to check a box but to leverage D&I for greater social impact, better business results and increased revenue.
It’s about seeing D&I as an integral part of a business, an essential strategy for both companies and nonprofits, that contributes to the bottom line. Companies are finding new business opportunities through employee-led resource groups, reaching new markets and leveraging employee skills such as language translation and more.
4. Volunteering Can Solve Business And Social Challenges
Volunteering does not have to be well-meaning do-gooders doling out favors for nonprofits on company time. Volunteering, especially skill-based volunteering, can tie directly to business goals. Employees can solve company and community challenges simultaneously through volunteering, whether it’s using their unique skills to solve problems, developing leaders and teams, reaching new, diverse markets and building relationships and rapport or simply using volunteering for employee recruitment and retention efforts.
For example, the hospitality industry is working to eliminate food waste, while food banks are trying to serve more clients. When company employees volunteer to deliver and sort food, as well as develop better processes to increase efficiency and distribution, everybody wins.
5. Measuring CSR Is A Must
Many C-suite leaders now consider corporate social responsibility as a business unit, which must be held to measurable business goals, from brand value to new business to employee engagement. CSR has changed over the last decade, as the pace of innovation is increasing. This means nonprofits must think more strategically about how to partner with businesses to advance mutual goals, with mutual benefit. Again, it’s not just about writing checks (read, don’t just ask for money), it’s about meeting business goals while demonstrating social impact at the same time.
Understanding these trends and knowing what socially responsible business leaders are thinking and doing in real time is incredibly valuable for the nonprofit community as we work together with companies to achieve greater results together. Here’s to a bright future for all of us.