The Ultimate Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with Step-By-Step Instructions

Consumers want to do business with companies who practice corporate social responsibility – and for good reason.

Companies that have a good CSR program have a long-term view on doing business and understand their impact on society. These companies know their business has a ripple effect, so they focus on how they can do the most good without sacrificing profits.

Companies that take the time to design and implement a thoughtful, intentional CSR strategy are often rewarded with loyal customers, a strong, talented workforce, and a positive public image. 

In other words, consumers want to buy from businesses that are making a lasting positive social impact and employees want to work for those same companies doing good in the world.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) helps create a framework for greater corporate purpose, and promises a better future with sustainable business operations.

In this Ultimate Corporate Social Responsibility Guide, we define corporate social responsibility and explain how to align and leverage CSR best practices for your company. We also give you tips on how you can make your company socially responsible and how to make the case for including CSR programs to your executive team.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is the integration of societal and environmental concerns into the strategy and operations of a business. 

It consists of initiatives and policies founded on the principle that companies should play a positive role in the community and be accountable for the impacts they have on society as a whole, alongside making profits. 

Corporations accomplish this by ensuring existing business practices are responsible and sustainable, and that corporate philanthropy supports causes that are meaningful and aligned to their core business.

With a commitment to implement a strong CSR strategy, companies have an opportunity to determine where and how their business intersects with communities. They can support solutions to a range of social problems like poverty, hunger, and disease. 

For example, the food company Campbell’s saw an opportunity to align its core business with the challenges surrounding access to healthy and nutritious food. In response, they implemented a 10-year program to improve food access in Camden, New Jersey.

Companies also have a responsibility to protect the environment, maintain a safe, inclusive workplace for employees, and even consider how a portion of profits could support social and environmental initiatives, such as programs that provide clean water to those in need, or help maintain and increase access to free public parks in underserved communities.

Companies that operate with CSR best practices are proud to share how they give back to society, often through cause-related messaging, to encourage employees to volunteer and customers to support business.

As a byproduct, companies that grow in size also grow the size of their CSR programs. This growth gives corporations the opportunity to make a larger social impact as well as bring in more profits.

Why does CSR Matter?

Growing expectations by consumers and employees around the positive role that companies can and should play in society means that CSR matters more than ever. Increasingly, it can impact the bottom line – with consumers rewarding companies for their efforts to operate responsibly by purchasing their products in larger quantities, and with higher prices, just to name a few.

Corporations must learn how to adapt to the demands of this shift in consumer behavior while continuing to produce the goods consumers want.

Reasons why companies practice corporate social responsibility

Business Longevity

In the past, a corporation’s main responsibility was to make money for its shareholders. And while that is still important, it is also true that shareholder value can be increased through a business model that is more responsible and sustainable. 

An example of a company that has grown and benefited by integrating CSR into its core business practices is Dr. Bronner’s. Not only has their CSR program improve customer loyalty, it’s helped make a positive social impact.

Employee Engagement and Retention

Employees, especially the Gen Z workforce, increasingly want to work for a company that aligns with their values. Employees are most engaged with a company that is giving back to the community. A growing trend in business shows that employee satisfaction and employee-to-company relationships directly impact performance.

Companies with strong CSR practices can see increased productivity from their employees, less turnover and attrition rates, less absenteeism, enhanced loyalty and goodwill towards the organization, and positive word of mouth.

As a byproduct of a company’s CSR efforts, employees also feel their individual interests being taken care of, especially for those who offer employee benefits packages that include health, retirement, and charitable giving programs that empower employees to give to charity. 

Attract and keep customers

It is possible that some, if not most, of companies’ customers will have a social agenda of their own and may not be willing to support a company that is not socially responsible. Research has shown that customers are four to six times more likely to buy from and trust a company that has a strong sense of purpose.

The companies that can tap into consumers’ sentiments around social and environmental issues and prove they are responsible corporate actors will likely have an edge over competitors who don’t.

Public Reputation

It’s no secret that a company’s reputation and their social responsibility are closely linked. Practicing social responsibility gives a company a chance to have the secondary benefit of making a positive impact on their reputation. 

Having a good reputation in the community and with the public is a major factor in growing a successful business.

Corporate social responsibility benefits

While few People Leaders see CSR as a burden of business operation, corporate social responsibility campaigns actually afford several benefits to businesses.

A good CSR campaign that promises to improve employee retention saves a company in onboarding and training expenses as well as the opportunity costs that come with losing talented employees.

Furthermore, companies with useful CSR-supporting software can save on hiring data-entry specialists. Tools like Groundswell can cut out the administrative duty needed for managing a corporate giving program.

How to Build a CSR Program

  1. Identify important company goals
  2. Understand consumer interests
  3. Brainstorm programs
  4. Carry out program plans
  5. Measure results

Designing and implementing a CSR program must be guided by the company’s business strategy, customer expectations, and employees’ interests. It is often shaped by the company’s operational footprint, the industry or sector, and where employees are based. 

1. Identify important company goals

The first step is to identify and prioritize important company goals and how the CSR program supports those. This includes understanding your industry and the challenges that you are going up against, both today but also what is on the horizon.

Take note of how the business is going, who the detractors are and who the supporters are. This information will help guide your CSR campaigns during planning.

2. Understand consumer interests

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and what they might be looking for. You’ll find this exercise enlightening and helpful in deciding where to put your resources. Do they support your business (product, service, etc) because of an existing CSR program that inspires them?

Aligning your programs to not just meet the expectations of your customers but give them a sense of pride and true connection to your business puts the company in a better position to compete with companies offering similar products or services.

It also helps to find out what employees care about. Often, employees are also consumers, so getting to know your workforce can provide strong insights.

3. Design programs

The communities closest to your business, its operational footprint, and reach of the product or services, will be the first to experience your social impact. This can be mapped based on geographic footprint as well as demographic groups. Based on this mapping, you might identify and provide funding to nonprofits that are serving those communities closest to the business.

If your employee base is also local, then supporting local schools, community centers, and other social programs can result in a healthier, thriving workforce. 

Aligning your CSR programs with stakeholder interests helps your company’s reputation, as well as helps build stronger, positive relationships in the community. 

As you brainstorm and design programs, think of ways you can make a positive impact on the lives of your employees, customers, and the broader community.

During the design phase, it’s also important to articulate your overarching goals and develop Key Performance Indicators to help you measure progress against those goals. This is a critical part of program design that will enable you to report back to internal and external stakeholders on the value of the programs.

4. Carry out CSR programs

Once the planning stages of your CSR program are complete, it’s time to carry out your campaigns.

After some time, your company’s CSR program will go through several changes and continue to refine itself. As long as your team puts an effort in organizing and managing the CSR program, you can feel confident that you’ll develop a program that works best for your business.

A great way to get started with a CSR program that requires little-to-no administrative requirements, corporate giving and matching programs work well.

5. Measure results

In order to celebrate the successes but also make necessary adjustments, it’s important to gather data and keep track of your progress by measuring your program’s impact. 

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) of a good CSR program could include a number of community members served/impacted by the nonprofit programs your company supports; level or percentage of employee engagement in a giving or volunteer program; and an improved or positive ‘score’ on CSR rankings (e.g. Dow Jones Sustainability Index, 3BL Corporate Citizens Awards, Sustainable Brands, etc).

Examples of Companies with Amazing Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company based in Ventura, California. Their mission is to create quality products that last a lifetime.

In addition to its sustainability practices and its clothing-repair program, Patagonia donates its profits to its nonprofit, Holdfast Collective, an organization dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.

Starbucks is a coffee company based in Seattle, Washington. This people, planet, and profit-positive focused company has CSR programs focused on inclusion and diversity.

Starbucks established the Starbucks Foundation in 1997, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with the goal of strengthening humanity by uplifting communities. As part of their mission, the have the goal of hiring 25,000 US military veterans and spouses by 2025 as part of their program.

Toms is a shoe company based in Los Angeles who pioneered the One for One model–which was a program that gave away one pair of shoes for every pair sold. 

Today, Toms gives away ⅓ of profits to fund grassroots initiatives to help those in need of support for mental health. Since 2006, Toms has given away over 100,000,000 shoes and impacted just as many lives.

Bombas is a clothing company based in New York whose mission is to put thoughtfully designed, essential clothing into the hands and onto the feet of those in need.

The company donates the #1, #2, and #3 most requested items to homeless shelters as well as donates one pair of socks for every pair of socks purchased. To date, Bombas has donated over 75 million items.

Pitching your CSR Program to Your Executive Team 

1. Frame Your Pitch

When pitching your CSR campaigns to your executive team, you want frame your presentation in a way that speaks to why the programs are valuable to the business and not just “for the good of society.”

Executives have a responsibility to grow the business and return value to shareholders, so a CSR program needs to stay aligned with business objectives to be considered worth the budget required to execute it.

Framing your pitch to speak on the goals of the business, how the CSR program will help employee performance, how the program aids in employee retention, and how it reduces the cost of onboard and training new employees will help your executive team understand the benefit from a business point of view.

2. Collect Supporting Data

As you create your presentation, include a section that discusses the impact CSR campaigns have had on business results in recent years.

Look for information highlighting employee satisfaction and retention as a result of CSR programs as well as reports on employee productivity and performance. 

There’s a strong correlation between employee performance and CSR programs that have been proven through scholarly research. 

The Wall Street Journal reported companies experience 52% lower turnover among newer employees involved in corporate-purpose programs.

3. Choose the Right Program Software

Part of managing your CSR programs is having the right software to support your team’s needs.

Depending on the CSR programs you have in place, there are a handful of software you can use to take the hard work out of implementation, organization, and management.

For example, when considering how best to empower employees to donate to charities, Groundswell Giving is an example of a corporate giving platform that takes the work out of managing a workplace giving program. What’s more, Groundswell provides program administrators easy access to the data to help report back to key internal stakeholders about the causes that are supported, top charities, total funds sent to charities, and level of employee engagement in the program.

4. Present to Your Team

During your presentation, be sure to communicate how the corporate social responsibility program will help the company achieve its larger business goals.

While you’ll want to speak to the broader importance of practicing corporate social responsibility, your message will resonate most with the executive decision-makers when your message is paired with the business case for the CSR programs.

4 Ways That Your Business Can Make Waves of Social Impact

No matter the size of your business, it can have a social impact in the communities that you serve. Maximizing social impact is a good idea for the bottom line. It can raise the company’s visibility and ensure future sustainability by creating a favorable business climate. The bonus? It always feels good to do good, build connections and have a net positive effect.

However, for most businesses, none of this happens by accident. In an effort to ensure profitability, it can be easy to forget how important every business is to its employees as well as to the community and society at large. And it’s not just the responsibility of large corporations. Small businesses have always had an integral role in shaping society. In fact, they currently generate 44% of economic activity. That includes your business. 

So what can you do to create the type of social impact you’d like to have? A good place to start is by understanding exactly what social impact is and why it’s so important.

What Is Social Impact?

Social impact is the effect that your company has on its employees, customers, business partners and the community as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). It includes the efforts, activities and policies, deliberate or not, that the business makes to address critical social injustices and challenges. 

These challenges might include, for example:

  • Economic disparity
  • Inequalities due to gender, race, sexual orientation, physical abilities, etc
  • Contamination of air and water
  • Depletion of natural resources and energy
  • Stagnation of economic growth and job opportunities
  • Hunger
  • Poor health care
  • Disparities in educational opportunities

Of course, there are more. These are just some of the types of impacts businesses may seek to address.

In addition to actions taken, social impact can also be the result of the failure to act. In this way, business social impact can be negative. But for many companies, probably yours included, it is an essential ethical responsibility to make a positive difference. The question is how.

How Your Business Can Have Bigger Impact

As mentioned, positive social impact doesn’t happen by accident. Companies that make a difference do so by including deliberate action within their strategies. Your organization can get started by defining the areas where you can have the greatest impact and that are aligned with the company’s mission and vision. Then it’s up to leadership to create opportunities that inspire the company and its employees to participate in philanthropic and community-oriented efforts. 

4 Ways Your Business Can Have Social Impact

Here are four ways that your company can maximize its social impact. Most socially responsible companies will prioritize one over the others. But the most successful will include elements of each. They are all important to the proliferation of prosperous communities worldwide.

1. Philanthropy and Giving Back

It’s one thing to donate to a worthy cause here and there. It’s quite another to implement a philanthropy program that promotes social value. A well-designed approach signals to employees that the company shares their values while elevating your corporate giving to a whole new level and providing opportunities to community residents. 

You can capture the hearts and the imagination of your employees by soliciting active involvement, providing matching donations and encouraging volunteer support. A holistic program aims to improve the community and enhance the company’s future viability. Philanthropy can become a vital part of your business success.

2. Exhibit Environmental Social Responsibility

More companies are becoming environmentally aware. Green initiatives save money and the environment while putting the business ahead of the regulatory requirements that will surely come in the near future. Many consumers, as well, want companies to reduce their carbon footprint and be better stewards of world resources. This isn’t just limited to corporations with large energy requirements. It includes small businesses of every type that can make an effort to reduce, recycle and reuse. In doing so, companies may also find ways to innovate and create better internal processes. 

3. Support the Local Community

No company can dominate its market in the long run without community support. It may not be feasible to sponsor every soccer team that asks, but most successful businesses recognize a responsibility to be a contributing member of the community. Thriving companies create jobs and generate tax revenue. They make the area a more attractive place to work, live and raise a family. The relationship is symbiotic, however. There could be no business without a healthy and supportive community. 

Remember, too, that one of the main reasons your business does well is because the business community itself is vital and even competitive. No business wants to be one of the crowd, but remember that if you have no competitors, you may not have a viable business model for long. In fact, complementary businesses help increase your customer base. Further, competition might actually increase your chances of long-term success.

4. Exhibit Internal Social  Responsibility

It’s not enough to simply provide jobs within the community. Social responsibility means that employers carefully consider the company’s ethical practices and the impact that these practices may have on the broader society. This means demonstrating fair and equitable treatment, not just to the customers that buy its products and services but to its own employees. Research shows that employees who are treated well can engender loyal customers.

Virgin Airlines founder and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, for one, agrees: “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Companies exhibit internal corporate responsibility by implementing policies that go beyond legal requirements. Businesses that are known for creating a great culture do much more. Policies that promote sustainability demonstrate a visible and deeply held commitment to:

  • Pay fair wages in all of the communities and countries that support the company
  • Treat employees equitably
  • Encourage work-life balance
  • Support physically and mentally healthy habits
  • Hire diversity and promote diverse pipeline strategies

Beyond profit, these companies recognize that equitable internal practices are vital to their public image and, hence, to their sustained success. 

Benefits of Making an Impact

Increasingly, both consumers and communities alike expect businesses to contribute to societal well-being. Even without this expectation, however, there are many reasons to maximize your company’s social impact. These benefits warrant a complete article on their own, but, briefly, they include:

  • Reducing social risks that may impact the business in the long run, for example, the decline in the availability of critical technology skills.
  • Improving employee productivity, engagement and loyalty by cultivating happier employees who share the company’s sense of purpose.
  • Attract the 60% of customers who increasingly prefer products offered by environmentally friendly, sustainably sourced and ethically responsible companies.
  • Enhance the company’s reputation, its attractiveness to investors and access to capital markets.
  • Support sustainability by helping to promote a healthier marketplace.
  • Gain an early competitive advantage by addressing issues that may eventually come under regulatory control, for example, the overuse of nonrenewable resources.

All of these benefits, individually and jointly, serve to greatly enhance your company’s profitability and long-term sustainability. 

Maximize Your Impact

Clearly, the choices that we make today will impact future generations for years to come. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to be part of the decision-making process. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, however. One of the easiest ways to get a jumpstart on your commitment to maximizing social impact is to implement a philanthropy program. It should be thoughtfully designed, but that doesn’t mean it must be difficult to put in place. 

Groundswell can help. We turn charitable giving into an employee benefit that will not only benefit the community, but it will also boost your bottom line. Contact us for more information.

How To Choose a Charity That Aligns With Your Corporate Goals

There’s little question that your company should donate to charity — surveys show that two-thirds to three-quarters of customers and employees prefer to do business with companies that give back to the community. Once you’ve decided to start a corporate giving program and figured out how much your business can afford to give to charity, the biggest remaining question is what charity (or charities) you should donate to. 

What Charities Should I Donate to as a Corporation?

While there are many different ways to choose causes your business can support — and you’re welcome to contribute to any that resonate with you — there are some basic guidelines that can help you choose charities that will resonate with your employees and your customers. The tips below can help you find the right causes and charities to associate with your brand and values. 

1. Look for charities that align with your company’s values

Choose a charity that aligns with your company’s mission and values. The more closely the charity relates to the work your business does, the more likely the connection is to make an impact on your employees and customers. The connection can be very broad — a restaurant may donate a portion of its profits to a local food bank, for example — or much more specific, as in a seafood restaurant supporting a sustainable fisheries initiative. 

2. Choose a charity with a personal connection

Choose a charity that has a personal connection for you and make it part of your story. Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, for example, was adopted when he was six weeks old. While Wendy’s donates to many charitable causes, their best known is The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which supports foster care adoption because Thomas believes that “every child deserves a forever home.” 

3. Look to your community

Look into charities that are close to home. Donations can be especially impactful to small, local charities that don’t have the same fundraising base as better-known national charities. While national charities can do very big things with the millions of dollars they raise each year, your donation won’t make or break them. It could, however, make a very big difference in the operating budget of a local charity serving a similar purpose in your hometown.

4. Ask your employees

Your employees are experts on their community and its needs. When you give them a voice in choosing the charity or charities your business will support, you are honoring and valuing them as complete, authentic people. By recognizing the causes that are important to them, you are giving them one more reason to love their job.

5. Listen to your customers

You can ask your customers which charities they support directly, either in person or via social media, or you can draw on your knowledge of them to help you choose charities that will resonate with them. REI, the outdoor sports gear brand, for example, focuses on causes that protect and promote access to the outdoors.

6. Let your employees choose their own

Groundswell takes employee choice to the next level. By providing each employee with a personal giving account, you can fully support the causes that are most important to them.

Guidelines for Responsible Corporate Giving

Once you’ve narrowed down a list of charities to consider, you should do some research to ensure that your donations actually go to the cause you want to support. These tips can help you vet charities and organizations before you make a final commitment.

1. Check their website

An organization’s website can tell you a great deal about the organization and its work. Look for clear details about the charity’s programs and how they use their donations. The more transparency they offer, the easier your decision will be. At a minimum, it should include the organization’s address and phone number, as well as stating its nonprofit status.

2. Look the charity up online

There are a number of organizations dedicated to helping people choose charities to support. Their websites will include a rating, as well as specifics such as how much of your donation goes to programming and whether or not they are registered charities. They include:

Some things to look for when checking out a charity checklist include:

  • Administrative/overhead costs: As a general guideline, look for charities that spend less than 25% of donations on administrative, marketing and other overhead costs.
  • Financials: Check the organization’s form 990 or other financial reporting for information on their financial health.
  • Complaints or actions against them: Look for any regulatory irregularities or complaints that have been made against the charity and what actions, if any, they’ve taken to resolve them.
  • Impact: Givewell lists far fewer charities than the others, but it focuses on charities that have a high rate of impactful work. You can also check the organization’s own website and annual report to learn more about the results they’ve seen in their work.

3. Make a site visit

If you’re choosing to support a local charity, schedule an in-person visit to evaluate their work. It will give you an opportunity to meet the organization’s leadership team, and see the way it operates on the ground. This can be especially important if you also choose to support the organization with volunteer hours or in-kind donations.

4. Ask around about reputation

In addition to basic research, take some time to ask trusted friends and acquaintances about their experience and opinions of the charities you’re considering. Again, this can be especially helpful if your possibilities include local organizations. Your personal contacts may have information about the charity’s leadership, board of directors or history that you won’t find elsewhere. 

The Bottom Line

The charities you support with your business tell your customers and employees a great deal about how well you put your values into practice. If you do your due diligence, follow your instincts and choose carefully, you’ll have the pleasure of knowing that your donations are benefiting your business, empowering your employees and making an impact on the world. How much more can you ask for? Start your corporate giving program with Groundswell.

Understanding the Role and Purpose of Corporate Social Responsibility

Companies could simply donate a few hundred dollars here and some old computers there and call it good, right? So what is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?

In the past, companies didn’t worry much about how they could give back. Sure, plenty of businesses gave money to their favorite charities and sponsored the local Little League team. While charitable donations of any type are commendable, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is something more. It is about holistic business practices that support a healthy economy and a strong global community for long-term sustainability, not just for the corporation, but for the world.

In the ‘80s, there were a handful of corporations that built their legacies on giving back some part of their proceeds to support communities and provide for the underserved, like Newman’s Own and Ben & Jerry’s. But it wasn’t until the last couple of decades that consumers began to expect more.

With the growing popularity of the internet and easy access to global news, corporate dealings became more transparent. Consumers couldn’t help noticing the media spotlight on the existential issues that we face today — climate change, contamination and the depletion of our natural resources, as well as the exploitation of our world communities.

Increasingly, customers want to deal with companies that are responsible and ethical. At the same time, more business leaders understand that they have a vital role to play in actively participating in global solutions. International powerhouses such as Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Walt Disney made CSR an essential part of their business processes. 

Both large and small businesses are bolstering their CSR initiatives. In the process, they are attracting the best talent, engendering customer loyalty, and improving the communities that they serve. 

What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is the integration of societal and environmental concerns into the strategy and operations of a business. It consists of initiatives that are founded on the principle that companies should play a positive role in the community and be accountable for the impacts they have on society as a whole

The term was coined in the 1950s by economist Howard Bowen, but elements of it have existed since the 1800s. Although there is no specific law that mandates social responsibility per se, most company leaders have long recognized that when they act in the best interest of society, benefits accrue to them. 

Benefit of CSR

In many corporations, CSR matches existing cultural values and aligns with the ethics and morality of the leaders. That’s reason enough to have a CSR program and, in any case, answers the question: “What is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?” However, even though businesses may not expect that there will be a strategic advantage or even many benefits to the CSR program, the rewards are plentiful.

CSR programs consistently return results. For example, they:

These benefits are backed by research. Further, customers are four to six times more likely to buy from and trust a company with a strong sense of purpose. And 87% of those surveyed report that they would purchase products and services from companies that advocate for the causes they believe in. 

The CSR pyramid

The CSR pyramid is a framework that represents the role of business in society and how businesses can take social responsibility. It was created by Archie Carroll, professor emeritus at the Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, in 1991. 

The hierarchy of the pyramid appears to place economic consideration before all else. In actual practice, if a business cannot be profitable while following the legal and ethical norms of a society, it should not exist. Like all frameworks, it has its limitations. Yet, despite criticisms that it may misrepresent the relative business priorities and place too strong an emphasis on profit-first, it still provides a useful way to think about how social responsibility works.

In any corporation, there will always be tension between what is right and what is profitable. At the end of the day, a viable business must make money. Savvy leaders understand that they must be both ethical and legal. The others become Enron. 

Let’s consider each of the levels:


The responsibility to be a good corporate citizen, to serve mankind and to look out for the poor and the underprivileged.


The responsibility to do what is right and fair, do no harm, follow fair labor practices, uphold nondiscriminatory actions and provide equal pay.


The responsibility to obey the law, society’s codification of right and wrong.


The responsibility to make a profit and to meet its core responsibility to shareholders.

Each of these components works together to create a sustainable operating model. 

How Does CSR Work?

There’s no one right way to do CSR. Programs can take many forms. Following are some of the most popular:

  • General donations: Corporations give money to their favorite nonprofits with no expectations in return.
  • In-kind giving: Rather than money, corporations donate products, services, equipment or use of their facilities, for example.
  • Scholarship and grants: Companies provide need-based or merit-based money for education, often targeting specific fields where they have an interest.
  • Sponsorships: Companies pay money or donate products, services and even their employees, to be associated with an event, a team, a project or just the nonprofit itself.
  • Disaster relief donations: When disaster strikes, relief efforts provide we assistance to communities and individuals who need food, shelter, clothing and other essentials.
  • Employee volunteer programs: These workplace-based initiatives support and encourage employees to participate in managed community volunteer efforts. 
  • Matching gifts: Corporations set up an employee benefit that provides a matching donation to nonprofit organizations.
  • Volunteer grants: Also known as a dollars for doers programs, corporations provide grant money to nonprofits based on the number of hours employees spend volunteering there.
  • Pro bono work: Companies provide free services, typically professional work, to those in need. 

Best Practices for a CSR Program

CSR is self-regulating. As such, there are no rules of compliance that you must follow. But there are certain things a company can do to ensure that the program gets a good start and that it exercises the discipline required to meet its business objectives. 

  • Put together a vision of where you want to be based on Carroll’s pyramid. What is the right balance between profitability and service to the community?
  • Audit current activities. What are you doing now that could be considered part of your CSR program? 
  • Develop a business code of ethics. Establish guiding principles that provide direction in terms of daily operations and how you treat employees, customers, the environment and competitors.
  • Adopt a workplace health and safety program. Ensure that you are following government regulations that are aimed at providing a safe work environment, avoiding the transmission of disease and preventing accidents.
  • Pledge to protect the environment. Start by implementing the three Rs of waste management in your workplace: reduce, reuse and recycle. Consider ways to minimize your carbon footprint, e.g., smart lighting and eliminating unnecessary travel.
  • Get strategic about nonprofits. Donate to causes that make sense given your business model and your values.
  • Mandate supply chain CSR. Communicate your values and expectations to your suppliers. Treat your suppliers equitably.

CSR Made Easy

One way to ensure that your CSR program runs smoothly is to find the right partners. Technology can help you effortlessly monitor, manage and measure the results of your program. 

Groundswell is the best option when you are looking to make charitable giving an employee benefit. It allows you to create a personal foundation for each employee and put the control in their capable hands. If you’d like more information about Groundswell, contact us

Addressing the Great Resignation through Smarter CSR

“I think the idea to simplify corporate giving to put it in employee’s hands – and potentially make it a benefits offering for a company – is extremely compelling.”

– Thomas Gaissmaier, Global Chief Human Resource Officer (Formerly Match Group, 21st Century Fox, Boston Consulting Group)

You’ve seen the news: The so-called Great Resignation is upon us. A whopping 4.3 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in August, with that number rising to 20 million if extended back to April.

Why? The reasons are complex. (It’s been a strange year or two.) But one big reason is that the modern employee will no longer settle for profit without purpose. They want their work life to integrate with their values, and they want their employer to help them express their values.

This is doubly true amongst Gen Z, for whom a professional life imbued with meaning and impact is more important than ever.

Unnerved by this nationwide mass resignation, how should leaders react? By reinventing corporate social responsibility programs to meet this new reality. By decentralizing CSR, and driving it through employees, companies can create a new type of benefit – a benefit with impact.

How Can Companies Adapt to the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is sending employers a message: The modern employee isn’t willing to settle. They aren’t willing to clock in and clock out like an automaton. After the pandemic – when all of us were reminded of things in life that really matter – this is truer than ever.

As a BBC report puts it,

“The intensity has increased in terms of expectation; people are expecting more from companies. The early days of the pandemic reminded us that people are not machines. If you’re worried about your kids, about your health, financial insecurity and covering your bills, and all the things that come with being human, you’re less likely to be productive. And we were all worried about those things.”

These worries have morphed into new expectations, and are a big reason why employees leave their jobs in 2021.

And the youngest generations of talent are the most discerning. 63% of millennials – essentially workers under 35 – said the primary purpose of businesses should be “improving society” instead of “generating profit”. This demonstrates that millennials place a higher importance on making a difference in the world than simply earning a wage.

And Gen Z are even more committed to their causes. On social media, they share content related to environmental, human rights, political or social issues even more than Millenials.

Steps to a Smarter Form of CSR

How can leaders adapt to the needs of the modern employee to ride out the Great Resignation? By getting smarter with their CSR.

Historically, philanthropy has been slow to innovate. Many companies, brands, and vendors have popped up with new ideas and tools – but these have often worked within the status quo. They don’t really offer the satisfaction that employees need to consider their workplace a socially responsible company.

Real CSR innovation means decentralizing the program, and empowering employees. Leaders need to recognize that everyone’s circumstances are unique and diverse – as are the challenges they attempt to resolve.

The key here is the individual. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all CSR solution. It’s time for employers to recognize the need to give employees a say in where corporate impact happens.

Here are some ideas on how to bring your talented and passionate employees into the CSR conversation.

Align Your Company Values with Benefits

Brand consistency is important, and it doesn’t need to stop at your employee benefits. Thomas Gaissmaier, former Chief People Officer at Match Group, tells us how to take a human-centric approach that aligns with your brand.

“What I’m passionate about is benefits that really help employees with their life situation. One of the things we did at Match Group was real fertility support. When the company is about dating, the company is about relationships, and ultimately about long-term relationships. From a benefits perspective, thinking through relationships and then family. It was these things where we believed they can have a real impact on life and have brand consistency. If the business is about relationships, we invest in relationships.”

Encourage Employee Volunteerism

One of the reasons we are living through the Great Resignation is because people lack the time to do things that matter. They are quitting their jobs so they can spend their time on activities that have purpose.

Leaders can give employees what they want – but retain talent – by giving them dedicated time off for volunteerism. Volunteering is a great way to take a meaningful break and has proven mental health benefits, including reducing feelings of stress and overwhelm and increasing the sensation of fulfillment.

Giving employees 16 hours of PTO to volunteer where they want, or work on a topic they care about, is generally more effective than trying to get 100 employees to all show up for a one-off event. A group exercise can feel like busy work and may not promote a cause that each individual is personally interested in. But allowing people to select where they want to make a difference, and targeting their efforts there, strengthens diversity.

Show Employees That You Value Things Beyond Profit

Amidst the turbulence of the Great Resignation, companies need to differentiate themselves from apathetic competitors, and signal their values.

Today, people want to work for (and buy from) businesses that have an active involvement in their community and in good causes. To retain talent, leaders should strive to integrate with their local community, and find causes to back.

This could be on social media, it could be through live events or webinars, it could be through partnerships or sponsorships. Whatever you choose, these genuine actions will demonstrate to employees that they are a part of something more than a money-making machine. This type of morale boost will leave employees feeling fulfilled and inspired – and far less likely to quit.

Let Employees Drive Your CSR

Here is the most powerful way to evolve your CSR and maximize your chances of retaining your best talent: Put your employees in the driver’s seat of corporate philanthropy.

Solutions like Groundswell revolutionize how companies approach employee compensation and corporate philanthropy by empowering employees with their own personal donor-advised funds (just like what the 401k did for retirees).

Groundswell’s CSR technology gives employees their own personal foundation, and a payroll integration will let them automatically divert their charitable giving into their account — with the option for the company to match those funds or gift money directly into it, eliminating the antiquated post-donation matching programs that companies operate today.

Fighting the Great Resignation by Making Giving to Charity an Employee Benefit

For leaders, the Great Resignation is an understandable worry. Losing good staff is a bruising experience for any company, and it can be tricky to know how to offset this risk.

What we need to do is work with the reality of why so many people are quitting: because they want more than a paycheque, because they want their workplace to be an empowering place that helps them make a difference.

With Millennials and Gen Z-ers accounting for an ever-larger majority of the workforce, leaders urgently need to innovate on their CSR. As we move into the coming years, providing purpose alongside profit will be crucial to the companies who want to hold on to their best talent. Today, for young employees, social responsibility is more important than a large salary or a corner office.

At Groundswell, we’ve built the tech to help companies unlock a smarter CSR. We help companies support employees in having the social impact they desire – driving satisfaction, retention, and growth.

Contact Groundswell today helps employees give more.