CBSR Blog: CSR as a Driver of Employee Engagement

CBSR Blog: CSR as a Driver of Employee Engagement

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Friday, May 18, 2012 - 1:00pm

CBSR Blog: CSR as a Driver of Employee Engagement

By: Maria José Ramos

Employee engagement is important for achieving long-term business success and shared value. On March 27th, CBSR partnered with CPEQ to deliver an in-person event in Montreal on the subject of CSR, employee engagement and the role of Human Resources in driving culture change.
In 2010, CBSR in partnership with Hewitt & Associates conducted a study to understand the relationship between perceptions of CSR and employee engagement. The results show that employee engagement is strongly linked to employee perception of CSR performance in their companies.

Hewitt defines engagement as the emotional and intellectual commitment of an individual or group to an organization that supports building and sustaining business performance. Engagement can be measured through six questions that assess an employees’ willingness to speak positively about their employer (SAY), intent to continue working with their employer (STAY) and their desire to go above and beyond to ensure their employer is successful (STRIVE).

CBSR presented the results of this study among the francophone Montreal business community, shared the importance of CSR in engaging employees, as well as examples of best practices from CBSR member companies such as KPMG, Walmart, The Cooperators and Atlantic Lottery.


There Is a High Correlation between Employee Engagement and CSR
Employees within high engagement organizations generally have more positive perceptions of their employers’ commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

A Lack of Commitment to CSR Could Decrease Employee Engagement
Perceptions of CSR appear as one of the top five threats to employee engagement. At a minimum, organizations need to sustain their current CSR commitments or risk a decline in employee engagement.

There Is Strong Leadership Support for Corporate Social Responsibility
Regardless of an organization’s employee engagement score, its leadership (Chief Executive Officer and his/her direct reports) believe that focusing on socially and environmentally responsible practices will help their overall success. The majority of business leadership also believe that the return on investment in socially and environmentally responsible practices will justify its expenditures.

There are 7 CSR Dimensions that have Different Impacts on Employee Perceptions
Concentrating on improving supplier relations, corporate governance and environmental stewardship will have the greatest impact on improving employees' perceptions of an organization's CSR commitments.

The findings of the study further support the business case for continuing the CSR and employee engagement journeys; combining initiatives to sustain both employee engagement and CSR will yield a better return on investment than individual non-coordinated efforts.

CBSR also shared with the participants some ideas of how to develop employee engagement strategies around CSR in a more successful manner:

  • Communication: A company can have a great CSR strategy on paper, but without communicating it to employees, its effectiveness is limited. In doing so, the company also become more accountable. For example, Atlantic Lottery offers an online CSR certification program that is mandatory for all company employees and retailers. Novo Nordisk offers employees access to an online portal, similar to YouTube, where people can upload videos of their volunteer experiences or CSR activities.
  • Participation: To ensure employees are fully engaged, they must be involved in strategy development and implementation of CSR. It is best to involve employees in the process rather than ask for feedback once a CSR strategy has already been adopted. Employee surveys, focus groups and CSR committees can be a place to start.
  • Ownership: Employees need to see how their actions contribute to corporate value; it makes work meaningful. As part of their employee engagement strategy, Walmart launched an employee personal sustainability project called "My Sustainability Plan” (MSP) to help employees take action every day to live more ecologically.
  • Recognition: Highlighting and celebrate contributions in a specific and personal manner show a company’s appreciation of the employees implicated. For instance, KPMG developed the community leadership award to recognize employees who have done an outstanding job volunteering in the community through the company’s community leadership program.
  • Continuity: It is important to treat employee engagement around CSR as an ongoing campaign that integrates itself progressively into the corporate culture. 


To download CBSR presentation, click here (PDF - French)
To download Optim Resources presentation, click here (PDF - French)
To download CSR as a Driver of Employee Engagement Executive Summary, click here (PDF – English)


About the Author:

Maria José Ramos - CSR Advisor, CBSR

Based in Montreal, Maria is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) advisor, working with CBSR's members in Montreal and with the extractives industries in Toronto.

Maria has lived and worked in Colombia, France, Canada and Brazil, in both the non-for-profit and corporate sectors. Maria has a wealth of experience in international development, communication, human rights, stakeholder engagement and multi-sector partnerships in community development. Prior to joining CBSR, Maria was a consultant at Rio Tinto Alcan where she co-founded and launched the sustainability champions team as a platform for employees to become agents of change in the Rio Tinto Montreal office. Her initiative and engagement has also led her to co-found other sustainability ventures around social entrepreneurship.

Maria speaks English, Spanish, French and Portuguese and holds a Bachelors of Arts from McGill University in International Development Studies and Psychology. She has also completed an online course offered by The Natural Step on community sustainability planning and a facilitation training course by Facilitation First.