Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is defined by the Financial Times as ‘a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.’ It is an idea that has really grown in importance in recent years, and a number of Fortune 500 companies have announced aggressive CSR programs.
This new found charitability is not a purely selfless play. The 2017 Cone Communications survey found that seven in ten Americans believe companies have an obligation to take actions to protect and benefits society and the environment, while 90% said companies should operate in such a way as to achieve it. The issue is particularly important for millennials. According to The Millennial Impact report, 72% of Millennials have volunteered for a charitable cause in the past year, while 94% said they enjoyed using their skills to help a cause.
Companies must pay attention to this trend for two reasons. Firstly, they need it to attract and retain consumers. According to Cone Communications, when presented with a choice between two similar products, 90% of consumers will select the brand they perceive to have a better CSR presence. Secondly, it is important to attract and retain employees. By 2025, millennials are likely to make up 75% of the US workforce, and their desire to combine performing a social good with employment is well documented. In the Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey, young professionals who regularly participate in workplace volunteer activities were found to be almost twice as likely to be satisfied with the progression of their career than those who did not.
We spoke to four leading strategists from organisations that have been highly successful in promoting CSR about why they felt it was so important.
Chris Bosch, Director of Strategy and Operations at World Vision International
CSR is inherently important because everyone has a responsibility to care for people and the planet. Profit is an important motivation and goal for organizations but corporations will not sustain success if it is the only goal. People are hard-wired to care for each other and their environment and they expect the organizations they interact with to do the same. The generation coming of age in the workforce right now has a new expectation for consumption and investing. They are creating an obligation on corporations to do good while they do well. This new generation of consumers and investors thinks much more integrative about their lives – mixing consumption with the spiritual and the spiritual with their daily actions. They have the same expectation of the corporations they relate with.
Benjamin Kumpf, Innovation Lead at the UNDP
The depletion of natural resources, unsustainable consumption patterns, climate change and also the effects of political instability have global reach and are becoming more and more tangible for people in the global North. As a consequence, more and more consumers turn to products and services that have clear sustainability and social good components.
Jeremy Renna, former Vice President of Leased-Strategic Planning and Vendor Collaboration at Macy's
Everyone is attempting to capture the Millennial generation both as a customer and an employee. Every significant survey I’ve seen tells of a socially conscious millennial group. Companies have pivoted to be more openly responsible to capture this group's attention.
Emil J. Dzuray Jr., Director of Strategic Planning at the US Postal Service HQ
The Postal Service has held paramount the importance of socially responsible behavior since our inception. Today, the best organizations realize that customers want to do business with organizations and brands that operate in a socially responsible way. This expectation is key to sustaining customer loyalty and brand trust. Furthermore, the best companies realize that attracting and retaining the best employees is foundational for future success. More and more, we see that the top talent in our industry want to work for organizations that operate in a socially responsible manner and enable them to contribute to their local communities and to the world in a positive way.