What is corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a company’s initiative to integrate charitable and environmentally sustainable practices into its culture. CSR stems from the idea that companies can increase their profits and make the world a better place at the same time. Though CSR is voluntary, societal pressure has impacted big corporations to incorporate CSR into their business models and brand.

Some examples of CSR include:

  • philanthropic contributions to charity organizations and human welfare,
  • integrating sustainable energy or sustainable food sources,
  • incorporating volunteer opportunities for people,
  • reducing waste and environmental impact, and
  • creating more efficient manufacturing operations.

Why should HR leaders care about corporate social responsibility?

Organizations that incorporate CSR into their mission can:

  • nurture unity between employees under a good cause;
  • boost their brand;
  • increase customers and sales;
  • add a competitive edge;
  • improve talent acquisition; and
  • give people more purpose at work, thereby boosting engagement and retention.

What can HR leaders do to promote corporate social responsibility?

HR leaders play a unique role in carrying out CSR programming. Here are a few ways HR can contribute:

  • Choosing a strategy. HR leaders can collaborate with executives and PR to identify which approach simultaneously benefits their company and enhances talent management. SHRM outlines three different CSR methodologies to implement: (1) The values-based approach, which Clif bar and Ben and Jerry’s use, is common among smaller businesses in which the founder’s ideals determine the company ethos; (2) Companies use the strategic approach to restructure their business model and strengthen their brand. Lego’s commitment to donating legos to 1.5 million children in need and reducing its box size by 14% is strategic. As an oil and natural gas provider and chemical manufacturer, ExxonMobil has revamped its business model, using the defensive method, to ensure that they transparently integrate as environmentally and socially sustainable practices as possible.
  • Partnering with external organizations. After defining their CSR missions and goals, HR leaders reach out to NGOs to build partnerships. Company employees and NGOs can cooperate to further common goals related to social and environmental responsibility.
  • Seamlessly integrating CSR with HRM. To connect daily work with doing good for the people and the planet, interweave CSR with HR management processes. For example, by offering qualified people the opportunity to volunteer for a short period with disadvantaged populations in developing countries, people realize the importance of their work.

How can promoting corporate social responsibility improve company culture?

Bringing more purpose and meaning to people’s jobs can enrich the employee experience. Through CSR, organizations enable people to make money while also making the world a better place. In turn, this can fuel greater meaning, motivation, and engagement, three fundamentals of a thriving company culture.