Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the biggest buzzwords of our time in the world of business, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. However, is it time to redefine what CSR actually means?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that in 2018, people around the world have less trust in political and social institutions than they have had in decades. Political divide is rampant, and positive social change is slow. Though numerous social, economic, and political changes have occurred since the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent economic recovery, these changes have failed to lead to substantial changes in individuals’ lives. As a result, many seem to be beginning to turn towards business leaders and corporate organizations to fill the gap.
Take the words of Laurence Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, as an example. He urges business leaders to recognize that people are increasingly “turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges”, and demanding that organizations “serve a social purpose”.
Recent research seems to suggest that leaders are, indeed, realizing that Fink is right. According to the most recent publication of Deloitte’s annual Human Capital Trends, for which more than 11,000 HR and business leaders were surveyed, organizations are now recognizing that they need to be more than just corporate or financial enterprises – they need to be social enterprises.
With the rise of social media and societal hyper-connectedness, organizations today are no longer strictly judged by their financial performance, or the quality of the products and services they provide. They are now judged by the impact that they have on the wider society.
According to Deloitte, social enterprises are organizations whose mission combines revenue growth and profit making with the responsibility of being a good citizen in the world. Seeing the societal leadership vacuum as an opportunity, they are a leading voice on societal issues and aim to shoulder their corporate social responsibility.
Think of companies like Wegmans, one of America’s top grocery chains, which employs more than 48,000 people and reported a revenue of $8.7 billion in 2017. Held in high regard by both employees and customers, they provided upwards of $4.5 million in scholarship and tuition assistance to its employees yearly, and make regular substantial charitable donations. Consider their Rochester, New York store as an example – they donated approximately 14.5 million pounds of food to food banks in 2017 to alleviate community hunger. It’s no wonder that more than 7,300 people contacted Wegmans in 2017 to ask if they could open a store in their community.
Consider also the leaders of some of the world’s most well known and profitable companies, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, and Elon Musk, who have all signed Gates’ Giving Pledge, promising to donate the majority of their wealth to charity either during their lifetime or in their will. While Larry Ellison’s donations will focus on medical research and education, Elon Musk’s donations will support science education and renewable energy research.
Indeed, organizations and leaders are recognizing that their social responsibility matters.
One famous CEO who has yet to sign the giving pledge is Jeff Bezos. Nonetheless, he’s recently hinted that he is finally looking for ways to contribute his wealth towards social good (there’s hope!).
Despite the optimism and hope that these pledges should give us, The Guardian writer Nathan Robinson makes an important point in his 2017 article. Although leaders like Bezos (who, by the way is now the richest man on the planet) have promised to donate his money towards the greater social good, his employees at Amazon reportedly continue to face questionable treatment.
This points to a larger theme at play here. Although it’s important that business leaders invest funds towards important societal causes outside of the company, such as education and renewable energy, this can’t be the end of corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility needs to start from within the company, with leaders investing in building a work environment that promotes their employees’ wellbeing. A company’s relationship with the wider ‘social ecosystem’ matters – but so does its relationship with its employees.
As we move towards a decade where companies that are social enterprises are likely to become the norm, corporate social responsibility will also likely become an expectation for all companies. This doesn’t just mean that companies will be required to invest in alleviating wider social issues – corporate social responsibility will also mean taking care of one’s own employees, and creating a work environment that supports wellbeing, longevity, and connectedness.
SO WHAT? At Summit, we take these responsibilities seriously. We’ve intentionally designed our corporate social responsibility programs, including Step Up!, Play It Forward, and Putting People First, to not only build relationships and connectedness between participants, but to lead to tangible ways of giving back to both local and global communities.
We’re driven to deliver programs that help companies become socially responsible both within their organization, and within the larger society. Please connect with us to talk to us about how we can help your company turn these ideals into reality.