Corporate social impact has been a topic of discussion for decades now, but as with diversity, equity, and inclusion, there’s been a lot more talk than action in many circles. As we remain at crisis levels across climate change, nuclear weapons, and COVID-19, and with the wealth gap widening for 70% of the global population, there is certainly no lack of work to be done. It’s time that companies stop simply paying lip service and instead empower their teams to drive real change around corporate social impact and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG).
Developing an effective corporate social impact program isn’t just good for the world at large, though. Increasing your company’s work in this area can greatly improve your bottom line through attracting and retaining top talent, driving positive employee outcomes such as higher engagement and productivity, and boosting sales by establishing a compelling and socially-oriented brand. Your corporate social impact strategy can also be integrated with your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, helping accelerate your progress on these two crucial initiatives. Read on to learn why corporate social impact is more important than ever and what you can do about it.
Why corporate social impact is more important today than ever before
Corporate social impact has long been considered a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’. In today’s world though, as both consumers and job seekers become increasingly concerned with what companies do and what they stand for, failing to prioritize important societal issues can be costly. In business, the axiom of ‘nice guys finish last’ no longer applies. Take a company like Patagonia, for instance. Patagonia has a strong environmental focus, and encourages employees to pursue their passions and work towards a cleaner, greener planet. As a result, they have just a 4% turnover rate as compared to the average in their sector of 12-13%. Similarly, when they took a strong stance discouraging people from buying Patagonia clothing they don’t need and being transparent about the true environmental cost of their products, they saw sales increase by 30%.
Consumers and employees both want to support companies that mirror their ideals. In fact, more than 70% of buyers overall and more than 80% of younger generations prefer to purchase from companies that align with their values. The key takeaway here is that if you and your competitor offer a similar product but your competitor speaks out about causes that matter to consumers while you remain silent, your bottom line will suffer the consequences. If you’re concerned that taking steps to make your company more socially and environmentally responsible will be costly and not worth the investment, consider that younger generations increasingly support companies raising prices in order to prioritize people and planet, and their buying power will only expand in the coming years and decades.
Similarly, your organization’s corporate social impact is important to employees as well. Two-thirds of jobseekers consider a company’s stance and work on social and environmental issues when researching potential employers. Moreover, 55% would take a pay cut if it meant working for a more socially responsible company. Younger generations are even more concerned with the corporate social impact of the companies they affiliate themselves with, so as the workforce continues to shift, this issue will only become more crucial as part of your talent recruitment and retention strategy.
What steps to take in 2021 to increase your corporate social impact
Now that you’ve read a bit about why corporate social impact is so important, what can you do about it? Luckily, there are some relatively straightforward ways to boost your efforts without breaking the bank. We’ve outlined a few high-level strategies below, but as we always say, your first step should be to consult your employees. We can pretty much guarantee they’ll have some great ideas for you, but if you need some tips, check out this list:
- Take a look at your supply chain. A crucial first step in examining your company’s impact on the world beyond the people you directly employ and the revenue you generate is to check out what you’re endorsing across the entirety of your supply chain. If you say that you want to be an upstanding global citizen, you need to determine where you’re actually doing more harm than good. Are your products derived from sustainable sources? Are you working with vendors who align with your values and goals? At every point in your supply chain, seek to minimize your carbon footprint, engage with underrepresented sellers, purchase sustainable and local supplies, and whatever else makes sense with your values and broader ESG goals.
- Empower your employees to advocate for what they believe in. Those monolithic days of service most companies run aren’t serving anyone. One-off engagements are rarely worthwhile for resource-strapped nonprofits, many employees won’t be passionate about the chosen cause, and often all it does is generate a few forced photos for the Careers page. Instead, consider enabling employees to drive smaller impact efforts around the causes that are actually important to them. Equip them with tools to be able to organize volunteer shifts with their colleagues, launch fundraising challenges, and consider offering matching funds to ensure employees know you support them. You’ll be able to do more good through these smaller scale campaigns, and you’ll reap vastly more benefit from this tailored approach to employee programming.
- Form community partnerships that align with your values. That said, it is also important to have some sense of company-wide identity and investment. Consult your core product or services as well as your values to determine what causes are most relevant for your company. Next, research organizations that target these issues. Forming strategic partnerships with nonprofits and NGOs will boost your employer and customer brands, give you additional publicity, and support important work that’s aligned with your offerings. For instance, if you’re a financial institution, it might make sense to partner with a financial literacy organization. If you’re focused on transportation, you can connect with entities working to reduce carbon emissions, or to increase mobility for underserved communities. Bring employees to the table for these conversations, and you’ll be bound to come up with some great potential partnerships to pursue. Reach out to the identified organizations, and make sure that however you decide to collaborate is truly mutually beneficial. If the partnership is only helpful for your company, current and prospective employees and consumers will see through it quickly, greatly reducing the business benefits of your efforts.
Corporate social impact is a crucial topic in today’s world, with increasing effects on companies’ bottom lines. Make sure that your company comes out on top by prioritizing your corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance efforts. Feel free to make use of the high-level tips above, and don’t forget to empower your employees to get involved early and often. If you’re looking for an easy way to equip employees with the tools to make a difference, and which also provides analytics and oversight for you, come check out Workrowd or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to learn more about you and help you do the most good for your business, your community, and the planet.