The CSR Scoop - 7/07/2015

Jul 7, 2015 5:45 PM ET
Campaign: The CSR Scoop

We’re just coming off the holiday weekend, during which we celebrated all that makes our country great. Among those things to celebrate is the exciting work being done across America to align the complementary interests of business and society to strengthen the communities in which we live and work. But before we pat ourselves on the back and declare the CSR Revolution won, we have a few more battles to fight, a few more separatists to convert, and a few more structures to dismantle. Articles in this week’s Scoop are optimistic about our ability to do so; they highlight some exciting new initiatives and models in corporate citizenship and identify opportunities for future innovation, collaboration, and progress.

The Scoop:

Check out Dr. Mark Camilleri’s article CSR 2.0 – The Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility Agenda for a comprehensive overview of the key constructs of today’s strategic CSR or, as Camilleri coins it, “CSR 2.0.” In the piece, Camilleri claims that the long-term sustainability of business demands a pragmatic and integrated approach to CSR, which focuses on building adaptive approaches and appeasing diverse stakeholders. Camilleri’s ultimate claim – something we can certainly get behind – is that societal demands are business opportunities, rather than constraints, which can be leveraged for the benefit of a company and its stakeholders.

The Case Foundation and B Lab have announced an exciting new partnership called “Measure What Matters,” that will leverage the power of the B Corp community to help all companies use business as a force for good. The initiative will adapt easy-to-use online tools, such as the B Impact Assessment and B Analytics, so that millions of companies around the world can leverage them to assess, compare, and improve their impact. The Case Foundation and B Lab hope to help establish a business culture in which all companies – large and small, public and private – measure and manage impact with the same rigor as they do profits.

At Common Impact, we’ve seen firsthand the tremendous impact that employee volunteer programs – particularly of the skills-based variety – can have on a company’s employee engagement and satisfaction. Our peers at CauseCast are likewise pedaling the volunteering Kool-Aid. CEO Ryan Scott claims that, despite all the hubbub about employee engagement (as a corporate success determinant, priority, and persisting challenge), Corporate volunteerism is consistently overlooked as a powerful employee engagement solution. Check out his argument for bringing volunteerism to the forefront of the employee engagement discussion.

“Purpose-filled work; greater respect from and towards managers; opportunities to develop skills and leadership; teamwork settings and bonding with colleagues over a shared mission that’s meaningful; and building deeper relationships into the community through the brand ambassadorship of passionate employees - all of this is the natural byproduct of employee-led corporate philanthropy. The springboard of corporate volunteering and giving elevates the emotional experience that employees have with their jobs.”

We loved reading Mark Horoszowski’s persuasive article in the Huffington Post last week, which assembled convincing data from various studies in employee engagement, talent development, market performance, and social impact, to prove why corporate leadership must launch and scale their socially responsible business initiatives. Two of our favorite points (among many!) include:

  • People, across generations, want to work at companies that drive social impact. According to Net Impact's What Workers Want report, 45% of employees would even take a 15% pay cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact.
  • Two of the biggest challenges facing the corporate world are a striking leadership gap and a disengaged employee base. Skills-based volunteering addresses both of these challenges by allowing employees to develop their functional expertise while also improving their soft skills, such as leadership, influencing, and teamwork. When employees engage in social good activities, they are proven to become more innovative and collaborative leaders.

 “Social good programs, like skills-based volunteering programs, are proven to effectively build leaders more economically than university programs, training, and conferences.”

Traditional HR roles such as payroll and benefits have been relegated to apps and websites, leaving HR departments at an inflection point. In many HR departments, the automation of classic HR tasks has enabled their focus to shift to workplace culture and employee retention and satisfaction. As CSR is increasingly proven to be a powerful tool for engagement, we’ve seen these parallel shifts drive an increasing connection between HR and CSR. HR sits in a unique position to support the decentralization of CSR work by spreading social initiatives throughout a company’s business units in order to drive enterprise-wide employee engagement and talent development.

Entrepreneur Magazine spoke with Clare Woodcraft, CEO of the Emirates Foundation, about how women in senior management roles at businesses of all shapes and sizes can maximize and succeed at CSR endeavors.

Woodcraft asserts that social investment, like commercial investments, should be diligently assessed for potential value, to ensure they will generate maximum social good and corporate returns. She also advises focusing a CSR portfolio on one social issue, rather than divvying up efforts amongst a number of causes, to create long-term sustainable and systemic change. Finally, she supports the claim that “community engagement shouldn’t be just a ‘nice to have’ but a critical component of organizational strategy.”

I was interested to note that Woodcraft’s suggestions, though targeted towards female business leaders, seem quite gender-neutral. Do you think female leaders are in a unique position to move the needle on their company’s CSR efforts?  Are the workplace tactics needed to promote corporate social investment different for men and women?

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation just released a Corporate Responsibility Practitioner’s Guide, designed to provide practical information to companies looking to expand their employee engagement programs internationally. The report explores the employee engagement landscape of five countries: Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, and identifies the cultural nuances, policies and trends that international practitioners should be cognizant of in order to design effective regional programs.

A couple samples of the report’s numerous interesting findings are:

  • Company leaders in Brazil frown strongly on employee engagement programs that are rolled out strictly for PR purposes; programs are expected to add true and measurable community value.
  • Globally, we’ve seen the buy-in of executive leadership to be key to the success of employee engagement initiatives. In India in particular, the visibility of senior leaders in employee engagement programs is absolutely vital to programmatic success and employee participation.

While the report focuses on five specific countries, the instruction it provides on tasks such as assessing the nonprofit landscape and understanding regional legal and public policy issues surrounding volunteerism, provides a useful framework for practitioners considering developing international employee engagement programs anywhere.

CECP’s  Giving in Numbers Brief 2015 showed a steady growth in corporate philanthropy over the past few years – a manifestation of organizations increasingly aligning their business strategies with the “do good values” of their newest generation of workers. JK Group argues that this steady uptrend reveals good news! Corporations have finally caught on to the fact that corporate philanthropy contributes significantly to a happy workforce which, in turn, has multiple collateral benefits to the corporation, including improved employee engagement and corporate reputation, lower recruiting and retention expensive, higher sales and profits, and a proven boost in share price performance. We share JK Group’s optimism that this positive trend reveals a mass movement towards year-round, strategic, integrated giving activities (both financial and hands-on), and away from the sporadic, ancillary giving and programming of yesteryear.

Designing and executing strategic, impactful community initiatives is an enormous task. And then, communicating the effects of those initiatives is a whole other challenge! The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship released an instructive post about how companies can determine and execute the best marketing tactics to effectively communicate the long-term value of their corporate citizenship efforts to their diverse shareholders and stakeholder audiences.

Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Howard Schultz: these celebrated executives proudly and publicly support causes through their businesses and are shaping a new narrative for CEO leadership. Whether or not you agree with Howard Schultz that discussions on race relations belong at the front of the Starbucks line, it’s undeniable that the efforts of these highly visible social leaders are redefining corporate social engagement and commercial global citizenship. We look forward to seeing how the precedent set by these humanitarian titans will shape the style and agenda of the corporate leaders of tomorrow.

Elizabeth Boggs Davidson charts the evolution of corporate social responsibility into shared value and, now, into “corporate social innovation (CSI),” in which companies “proactively design and implement business models that increase incomes and better the quality of life of underserved or vulnerable communities and bottom of the pyramid markets.” Davidson claims that the unlikely bedfellows that CSI initiatives bring together – including large corporations, corporate venture capitalists, impact investors, governments, and social service organizations – coupled with the new CSI framework, may finally achieve success in leveraging businesses to confront important societal challenges.


TechNetworks of Boston, MassCap, and UMass Boston College of Public and Community Service are partnering to hold an interactive workshop on data visualization for nonprofit organizations. The training, ‘Sharing your Success: Visualizing Outcomes Data’, will provide an overview of how to think about data and how to use free or expensive tools to make eye-catching visuals that promote your nonprofit’s success.
July 15, Boston, MA

GreenBiz Group partnered with Siemens in a comprehensive research study to determine what happens when internal sustainability teams seek outside resources to guide their efforts or outsource their activities. Register for their webcast, ‘The Role of Outsourcing to Achieve Sustainability Objectives’ to learn how corporations leverage outside resources to achieve their sustainability goals and objectives, how satisfied corporations are with their ability to address sustainability issues in-house versus finding quality outsourced assistance, and which activities are most commonly outsourced.
July 21, Online

Join Common Impact and the Women’s Coding Collective for Beginner HTML & CSS for Nonprofits with Women’s Coding Collaborative Co-Founder Susan Buck. This training will help you demystify web development, while building the skills and confidence to keep your organization's branding looking fresh in websites, emails, and other electronic media.
July 23, Cambridge, MA

The 2015 Corporate Philanthropy Institute, presented by Northern California Grantmakers and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, will explore how companies are going about breathing authenticity and value into corporate social responsibility efforts; how new models are being created that take into account the needs and interests of the community as well as other stakeholders; how the simplicity of programming can be a tool for success; and how in our “post-recession world”, we ensure that we are living our principles. Register by July 17 for early bird rates.
September 21, San Francisco, CA