Learn about the history of Corporate Social Responsibility, its importance and benefits, and how you can implement your own CSR program.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to the way companies integrate environmental, social, and ethical concerns into their business operations and interactions with stakeholders. It’s based on the idea that businesses have a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of society beyond their economic activities.
This includes initiatives like:
By embracing CSR, companies can build a more sustainable and responsible business that contributes to the greater good of society.
Corporate social responsibility can be broken down into four major categories:
The term “Corporate Social Responsibility” was coined in 1953 by American economist, Howard Bowen. In his book, Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, he identifies the power corporations have over society and therefore the obligation they have to pursue policies that benefit the common good.
In the 1970s, the concept of “The Social Contract” was introduced by the Committee for Economic Development (CED), and emphasized that because companies exist thanks to public consent, those companies are then obligated to contribute to the needs of society.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the creation of organizations such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Global Compact established standards for CSR reporting and encouraging responsible practices.
Today, CSR has become an increasingly vital part of a company’s business strategy, transcending from being merely important to virtually mandatory. In an era where social and environmental issues are at the forefront of public consciousness, corporations are expected to demonstrate their commitment to CSR.
In just the last 20 years, companies have shifted from just showing the initiatives they put in place for CSR to really measuring and reporting its impact. According to Dave Stangis, Founder & CEO at 21C Impact and Former Chief Sustainability Officer at Campbell Soup Company, “There were clearly some companies doing this work in the past, but so many things have changed since then. Technology has changed. Product offerings have changed. Transparency or the ability for the external world to see what’s going on behind the scenes at a company has changed. As a result, companies have really shifted their focus from being good corporate citizens to measuring impact. How many kids have we touched? How many dollars have we given? How many things have we cleaned up? These are activity measures. What leading companies are doing today is seeking to measure outcomes – both the business bottom line and in society.”
Starting a CSR program within your company is no simple task, but the outcomes are worth the energy it takes to get things going. Here are 8 steps you can take in order to implement your own program:
If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some examples of companies that have implemented successful CSR programs and initiatives:
DigitalOcean created an employee referral program to include giving credits that employees could then use to donate to causes they care about. If an employee refers a candidate, and that candidate is hired, the referring employee receives a $3,500 referral bonus in addition to a $1,500 charitable donation paid by DigitalOcean. If the employee chooses to contribute an additional portion of the payout to charity, DigitalOcean also matches that added donation.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation runs one of the largest scholarship programs in the United States. They’ve awarded more than 6,750 Coca-Cola Scholars with more than $81 million in educational support since 1989. An achievement-based program, it recognizes 150 students each year who are making a positive impact in their schools and communities through their leadership and service with a $20,000 college scholarship.
As for the Coca-Cola company itself, they’ve expanded their efforts by releasing a new prototype of a 100% plant-based beverage bottle. Working with several technology partners, their aim is to create a new bottle with the lowest possible carbon footprint. And as a larger goal, they aim to develop sustainable solutions for the industry as a whole.
Quotient expanded its philanthropy program to focus on three core pillars of giving: economic stability, technological equity, and environmental sustainability. To encourage employee participation, they provided a new hire credit grant, employee donation matching, and paid time off for volunteering. As a result, they saw improved philanthropic engagement across their global workforce, and participation rates increased both domestically and internationally.
Rivian extended their commitment to sustainability beyond the electric vehicles that they manufacture. They did so by implementing a hybrid volunteering experience for their employees. This meant that both employees in the office and employees in the factories could participate. They each received a box with materials that allowed them to plant and care for 2 trees per employee.
REI made their #OptOutside movement a permanent, yearly commitment. Every Black Friday, they close all of their brick-and-mortar stores, do not process any online payments, and give their employees a paid day off to spend in nature. REI purposely chose time outside over the busiest in-store shopping day of the year, emphasizing the importance of nature and mental health over company profit.
If you’re thinking about starting a new CSR program at your company, it can seem like a daunting task. Or, if you’re currently running multiple programs, juggling spreadsheets and trying to measure impact can be laborious and time-consuming.
That’s where software can step in. CSR software can help you streamline your efforts from implementation and management all the way through to reporting. Because not all software platforms have the same features, it’s important to list out your needs and compare vendors. Common features of CSR software include:
Did you know? More than 8 in 10 employees say they are more likely to donate if a match is offered.
Our Bright Funds CSR software includes all the features listed above, including the ability to donate to over 2.3 million nonprofits and explore over 450,000 volunteer opportunities.
Interested in starting, improving, or expanding your current CSR program?
Schedule time to speak with one of our team members about how we can help.