Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is, at its core, a practice of accountability and responsibility. An organization considers the impact of its business decisions and operations on communities, on society, and on the environment, and takes positive action to improve them. Whether it is through grand acts of philanthropy like building schools and hospitals, or through small measures meant to minimize waste, CSR is a means by which corporations can use their power and influence for social good.

Cube Group, a public value consultancy focused on working with public sector and nonprofit organizations in Australia, wrote it this way on its Web site, “Corporate Social Responsibility is more than just donating money or printing double-sided to save trees, it’s about contributing to the health and welfare of society, operating transparently and ethically.”

“More importantly, this way of operating should be embedded in the business, rather than an afterthought.”

What’s attractive about CSR initiatives is that the goal is usually twofold: as a corporation gives more to any given community, positive press often follows. Ultimately, CSR ends in a win-win scenario for the business and for society, in a myriad of ways.

CSR helps promote brand recognition

One of the primary purposes of many CSR efforts is that of brand recognition. A fast food company which regularly hosts feeding programs for the poor, or a real estate firm doing work to provide low-income housing are some effective ways to boost public awareness of their brand.

This is especially rewarding for companies in highly competitive industries. A positive brand image can give a company the edge it needs to gain a bigger market share, while still contributing to a worthwhile cause.

CSR keeps employees engaged

Among the biggest reasons employees leave companies with high turnover rates is that they usually feel a lack of purpose and meaning in their work.

In a study published by Emerald Insight using data from 85,167 questionnaires completed by employees at 381 Brazilian companies as well as data pertaining to the “breadth” of CSR engagement of those same companies, it was found that the positive image CSR efforts bring a company increases employee satisfaction.

“Because employee behaviour influences organizational outcomes and higher job satisfaction may lead to greater employee commitment to organizational goals and values, understanding the impact of CSR on employee satisfaction is relevant to corporate performance,” the study wrote.

“The results of this study provide evidence that CSR-oriented actions undertaken by companies will lead to a better organizational image, and this, in turn, will lead to greater employee satisfaction.”

CSR promotes personal and professional development

According to Cube Group, providing employees with the opportunity to be involved in a company’s socially responsible activities can have the benefit of teaching new skills to staff, which can in turn be applied in the workplace. This encourages a completely new form of professional development among employees.

“By undertaking activities outside of their usual work responsibilities, employees have the chance to contribute to work and causes that they might feel passionate about, or learn something entirely new which can help enrich their own perspectives. By supporting these activities, organizations encourage growth and support for employees,” Cube Group said.

Companies who engage in CSR become employers of choice

The new generation of workers is increasingly becoming more focused on the morality and ethics of the companies they work for. A survey of more than 2,000 people in the United Kingdom conducted by the consultancy firm Global Tolerance and published in 2015 found that 42% of workers want to work for an organization that leaves a positive impact on the world. More than half, or 44%, thought meaningful work that helped others was more important than a high salary and 36% would work harder if their company benefitted society. 

Millennials, or those born between 1981 and 1996, are leading this change. Of those millennials surveyed, 62% revealed that they want to work for a company that makes a positive impact, half prefer purposeful work to a high salary, and 53% would work harder if they were making a difference to others.

Recruitment and retention, particularly, will be more effective within this new values-driven generation for companies that significantly contributes to the good of society. Through employee-focused activities such as community volunteering or fundraising, a good CSR policy can attract the talent that can keep a company relevant for years down the line. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran