Practicing corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help make companies look good and help their leaders and employees feel like good corporate citizens, too. But does it offer tangible benefits to a company's bottom line? That debate has raged for years, however the arguments of skeptics are increasingly being overcome by the solid and ever-mounting data that demonstrates CSR's business benefits.
A 2017 study by Cone Communications found that 78 percent of Americans want companies to address important social justice issues and as many as 87 percent will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.
And it doesn't end there. Good corporate citizens have higher rates of employee attraction and retention. Millennials, in particular, want to work for companies that care about the community where they are based, and according to the Millennial Impact Report, those numbers continued to grow in 2017. Employees look to align themselves with organizations that reflect their social attitudes.
Investors and business partners also want to work with organizations that are engaged in corporate social responsibility. So, it should come as no surprise that companies who make CSR a true part of their brand are building strong business reputations -- so strong that their reputations are often able to carry them through a crisis.
There's also the financial benefit. Good corporate citizenship activities make sound business sense. Take sustainability: Many companies that have implemented sustainability programs that save costs through limiting their use of resources, while also improving efficiencies. Reducing packaging materials, installing energy-efficient lighting, or minimizing transportation are just a few examples.
In other words, it pays in multiple ways to be a good corporate citizen.
So, what are leading companies doing? There was a time when corporate citizenship was viewed simply as a PR exercise. Some companies would write a check for the nearest nonprofit organization or send their employees to paint a wall in the local community, being sure to publicize the effort.
But today, visionary organizations are actively engaging with their communities -- the communities they serve, and the communities in which they operate. Some companies provide their employees with volunteer hours so that they can more easily commit to local programs.
Making a difference wherever and whenever your organization meets is also becoming a customary practice. An ideal opportunity to reinforce the commitment to giving back are at annual meetings, whether on site or off site. And incentive travel programs rewarding top achievers and association conferences are also now common place. These gatherings bring together your employees and industry colleagues and provide exposure to one's true corporate culture. These events raise awareness of local organizations and their needs and in some cases bring together local beneficiaries and corporate entities and their staff, to learn more about the area and how they can help, another way to truly benefit from being a good corporate citizen where your organization meets.
The options for engaging your organization in CSR to become part of the "Good Corporate Citizen" model, are many. And getting involved will reap benefits across the board for employees, corporate partners, customers, and most importantly, the local community. If you haven't jumped in yet, make 2018 the year to engage.
Ira is president and co-founder of Impact 4 Good, a philanthropic teambuilding company that has provided team building events that give back to the local community wherever you meet. With 20-plus years of experience in the meetings/events industry, Ira is a frequent presenter and author on CSR and the benefits of corporate philanthropy. Contact him at [email protected]