The war for talent has never been more competitive. The US and the UK are seeing the highest resignation rates on record as workers quit jobs that are burning them out or do not provide them with the right levels of flexibility and enough career development opportunities.
Another leading cause of the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is a bad or toxic workplace culture. Workers no longer feel they need to stay at companies where they are mistreated, or they can’t be their true selves.
This is particularly the case for the younger generation. Research by mthree found that 50% of 21 to 28-year-olds prioritized culture when looking for a new job. More than one in four left a job within six months, and almost a third quit within a year, because of the toxic culture.
In this context, employers need to rethink their culture if they want to avoid high attrition rates, and be able to make new hires.
But where should organizations start? What do employees want out of company culture?
One place to start would be showing that a company cares about more than profits and wants to be a productive member of its community and wider society.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
This act of businesses looking beyond their own profits, and focusing on giving back to society as well, is called Corporate Social Responsibility.
One Corporate Social Responsibility definition states that it is “a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.
“To engage in CSR means that, in the ordinary course of business, a company is operating in ways that enhance society and the environment instead of contributing negatively to them.”
Setting Corporate Social Responsibility goals
As Corporate Social Responsibility is a self-regulating business model, it can be tough to figure out what to prioritize.
The first thing to do is to ask employees – what philanthropic actions and initiatives do they want to see? Are they interested in environmental sustainability initiatives? Do they want the company to get better at hiring and promoting candidates from under-represented groups? Do they want socially responsible pension options?
Then employers need to figure out how they are going to measure progress and success. There is little point in introducing commitments to be more socially responsible without having any way to show and prove the success you’ve had.
Figuring out how to track progress involves buy-in from the top; it can also require a change in general company culture and goals that the entire organization needs to agree on.
Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility
To help companies figuring out their CSR strategies, here are some examples of big brands forging ahead with having more socially and environmentally responsible policies?
The first example is tech giant Salesforce. One CSR policy that Salesforce is particularly proud of its gender-inclusive benefits. reimbursement for gender affirmation medical procedures and treatments, four weeks paid leave for employees who need time to recover after procedures, and up to $1,000 to help employees navigate legally changing their gender.
In an interview with UNLEASH, senior director of employee success Terri Moloney noted: “We want all employees to feel safe bringing their true, authentic selves to work every day and we believe these benefits are an important step on that journey.”
A second successful Corporate Social Responsibility example is Zurich Insurance. The insurer has a new headquarters in Switzerland that is completely eco-friendly. Lake Zurich water is used for heating and cooling the building, all electricity comes from 100% renewable sources, only electric vehicles are allowed to be parked there.
In a recent UNLEASH interview, global head of talent Sally Henderson shared how the new HQ fits into Zurich’s wider three-pronged sustainability strategy: “One is tackling climate change, one is inspiring confidence in a digital society, and the third is about promoting a fair and inclusive workforce”.
Finally, Ben & Jerry’s is very hot being a socially responsible business. The company has campaigned with Rock The Vote to get young people registered to vote in the US. It also offsets its employee travel – and now works with other companies and individuals to do the same.
Another thing Ben & Jerry’s does is ensure its supply chain providers are also socially responsible and aims to use fair trade suppliers that treat their employees well.
This is something many brands overlook – while they focus on being inclusive workplaces and having a sustainable business, they often fail to look at the malpractice of their suppliers.
UNLEASH spoke to the (now former) UK LGBT business champion Iain Anderson about this topic. He noted that many businesses are already doing great work to encourage partners to be LGBTQ+ friendly employers, which has been “very powerful”.
But “money talks” – “how you operate supply chains and the choices that British businesses make around those supply chains are very important” to drive progress globally.
Why is Corporate Social Responsibility so important?
Linked with the current challenges in attracting and retaining talent – dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’ – a major reason why companies should embrace Corporate Social Responsibility is brand image.
Current and future employees are impressed by socially responsible businesses, and so are clients and investors.
Investors seem to be keener to fund companies that are focused on financial success, but also on giving back, particularly in the realm of environmental sustainability.
In a Ferguson Partners blog post, Linda J Isaacson wrote: “Creating sustainable value for stakeholders and company shareholders requires clarity of purpose, aggressive capital management, a long-term strategy, and agile adaptability to climate change.
“All these elements will be necessary to generate enduring value for stakeholders and company shareholders.”
This also ties into the talent acquisition and retention challenges because “by delivering value to its customers, its employees, and its communities, a company will compete more effectively and deliver long-term, durable profits for shareholders.”
Consumers are also keener to buy products from sustainable and ‘greater good’ businesses. Aren’t you more interested in purchasing Ben & Jerry’s or insurance from Zurich now you know they are socially responsible businesses?
How to evaluate Corporate Social Responsibility
It was mentioned earlier that stating you are committed to being socially responsible is not sufficient. Actions speak louder than words; if companies want to reap the benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility, they need to be able to demonstrate the progress they’ve made.
It is all good and well to document their successes – and areas that need improvement – but how do you keep the company on the right track?
A standard way to do this is to hold those at the top accountable for the lack of progress. Many companies do this by tying executive pay to the achievement of environmental and diversity goals.
Examples of brands that do this include McDonald’s, AmEx, Microsoft, and Apple.
Apple announced in January 2021 that it would tie executive bonuses to the achievement of key environmental and social targets – including reducing emissions by 75% and having a net-zero value chain.
While McDonald’s has announced it will tie executive bonuses to diversity and inclusion targets. According to Reuters, CEO Chris Kempczinski could lose 15% of his approximately $2.25 million annual bonus if McDonald’s fails to meet its goals to increase the portion of under-represented groups at a senior leadership level.
One company that has recently made a similar move is Salesforce. While celebrating its progress around diverse hiring and promotion at the company, Salesforce announced would be tying executive pay to “environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals – including representation. This is an important step for us to build greater accountability, lead with our values, and accelerate our ESG initiatives.”
Are you ready to follow in the footsteps of these companies and implement genuine and effective Corporate Social Responsibility policies?