When organizations do the right thing, value can extend far beyond the good deed itself. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help drive better business outcomes, attract like-minded partners, increase employee engagement, and more.
“Just like human resources years ago, CSR is going to grow into a strategic partner in the company,” John Matthews, SAP’s global vice president of HCM LoB Business Partner, Global Customer Strategy & Business Operations, said on the SAP Radio show Changing The Game with HR recently. “Doing good is also good for business.”
CSR refers to how organizations go above and beyond to evaluate and own their environmental and social impacts. But growing into strategic partnership with other, more quantifiable lines of business would require objective CSR metrics.
Quantifying Good Deeds
“We’re going to see the emergence of an index that captures the corporate social responsibility agenda, the responsibility with which companies act,” Chris Johnson, senior partner at New York-based human resources consulting firm Mercer, said on Changing the Game with HR. “And the index will be a key part of how the company will be accountable to its shareholders.”
If this seems far fetched, consider that shareholders are also beginning to demand sustainability. And organizations already get rated as best places to work, on work-life balance, and many other ratings; Mercer even sponsors the Britain’s Healthiest Company index.
Johnson predicts a CSR index within the decade.
“It could be a very public account — a transparency and public accountability thing,” Johnson said. Advocacy groups “will be able to go to those companies that are low down [on] the index, and offer them a way of clamoring up the index and demonstrating their broader responsibility to society.”
But CSR-minded organizations will still want a return on investment.
Paying It Forward
“Corporate social responsibility also helps the bottom line, meaning that it helps you build trust with customers, employees, as well as with your suppliers,” Matthews said. “If you give them that guidance, that direction, and you’re clear on what matters, others will come running to you — and come running with you to help solve problems.”
One of Matthews’ “problems” is a 3,400-mile bicycle ride across the U.S. to raise awareness — and funds — for lung cancer research; he’s doing so in memory of his late mother who died of the disease. Whether the issue is healthcare, education or implementing design elements that cut costs by increasing energy efficiency, corporate social responsibility can be an effective way to increase employee engagement.
“People love to work for a corporation that is paying it forward,” Bonnie J. Addario, founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, said on Changing the Game with HR. “It’s not always about money it’s about involvement — it’s about having an emotional connection.”
More Than a Cause
“CSR is becoming much more of a heritage asset, meaning people prefer their service efforts to leave lasting effects,” Kevin Xu, CEO of global intellectual property management company MEBO International, stated on Forbes CommunityVoice last month. “Rather than championing campaigns that make big splashes, businesses want to build and work toward causes that resonate with and get carried on by younger generations.”
These efforts can lead to new partnerships with likeminded organizations — what a wireless solutions provider’s CEO called a “return on doing good,” as opposed to a simple return on investment. And it’s a great way to build pride within the organization.
“I’ve already had 30 people from SAP from all across the world who just heard what we were doing, and said, ‘How can I help?’” SAP’s Matthews said. “And it grows every day. So I’m very happy, fortunate, and proud to work for SAP.”