Ideal Outcomes

When Culture Meets Cause

by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than a buzzword. CSR is about companies going beyond profit-making to actively contribute to the greater good of society and the environment.

The History of CSR

CSR has its roots in the mid-1800s during the Industrial Revolution when concerns arose about how workers were treated. Over the years, the concept expanded to include corporate philanthropy, giving birth to the notion of a “social contract” between organizations and the societies in which they operate.

By the early 2000s, CSR had become embedded in the corporate strategies of many businesses. Multi-million-dollar companies like Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, and Pfizer led the charge, formally incorporating the concept into their business processes.

Over the last two decades, CSR’s importance has grown as consumers become more aware of issues such as climate change, health care disparities, income inequality, and race and gender inequity. Today people are more socially aware than ever, and society now demands that businesses focus on a purpose beyond profit.

The Business Case for CSR

Businesses committed to treating CSR as a management concept don’t just enjoy a better public image; they also reap the benefits of more investment dollars, lower operating costs, increased customer loyalty and community support, and more effective employee recruitment and retention:

  • 22% of investors cite a “zero tolerance” policy toward businesses that embrace questionable practices on the ethical front
  • 7 in 10 U.S. CEOs acknowledge that a commitment to responsible environment, social, and governance (ESG) practices improves their company’s financial performance
  • 70% of customers are more loyal to brands that showcase CSR efforts
  • 69% of employees want their job to bring positive societal impact, calling it a “strong expectation or deal breaker” when considering a job

The Relationship Between CSR and Your Workplace Culture

While CSR and workplace culture are linked, they’re not the same. Workplace culture is the combination of an organization’s shared purpose, values, and assumptions. It is shaped by the organization’s, traditions, policies, and practices. A company’s culture affects how employees relate to one another and how they engage with their work. Workplace culture influences communication styles, decision-making processes, and the degree of formality or informality in interactions. It’s what makes your company unique, and is one of the biggest factors in long-term employee engagement.

CSR embodies a company’s commitment to being socially accountable to its employees, stakeholders, the environment, and local communities. CSR is an element of your workplace culture as well as a product of it.

CSR is vital to a company’s long-term sustainability, but a CSR strategy will only excel if it’s backed by a your company values and culture.

  • A CSR program should relate to your “reality” as an organization: The CSR strategy must align with the business’s principles, values, and purpose for it to achieve the greatest impact internally and externally.
  • The CSR strategy must be championed by leadership: Leaders must genuinely believe the purpose of the business is more than profit alone. This theme should come up regularly in the conversations C-level executives have with employees, customers, communities, and shareholders.

Aligning CSR with culture begins with identifying and communicating the purpose and values that are the foundation of the organization’s culture. These essential building blocks will drive the company’s CSR strategies, tactics, and operations.

Selecting and Implementing Your CSR Initiatives

Selecting the appropriate CSR initiatives will create a ripple effect through your organization that reinforces your culture. For example, if sustainability is one of your company’s values, you can set internal targets for the use of renewable energy sources, hardware recycling, eco-friendly product design, and paperless work. You might embrace remote or hybrid working arrangements to reduce your real estate footprint and employees’ commute time and, as a result, your overall carbon emissions.

If your company culture values growing young talent, you could donate computers in the community, get your IT teams involved in educational coding work for kids, and have human resources and other leaders run resume-writing and job-seeking workshops.

If learning and development is one of your company values, you could offer free courses in your areas of expertise to people in your community looking to get back on their feet or change careers.

The Bottom Line

People want to help others. It’s a basic human instinct. Effective leaders empower their employees to amplify their companies’ social impact. Give your people paid days off to volunteer in the community or support a cause of their choice. Publicly recognize and reward people’s involvement in the community. And most importantly, lead by example: Roll up your sleeves and get involved. When you build a healthy corporate culture that reflects your company values and purpose, and build your CSR around that culture, everyone wins: the community, your employees, and your bottom line.

Ideal Outcomes can help you build a culture of giving, enhance CSR engagement, and accelerate its impact on your business, employees, and community.

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