Navigating the Intersection of Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Goals
Now more than ever, the balance between profitability and responsible leadership is key to good business. Research has shown that purpose-driven companies achieve stronger business results and have a greater impact by doing better for their customers, employees, and shareholders. But what constitutes impact leadership, and how can companies shape their impact initiatives to address the most challenging social issues of our time?
At the 2023 EVERFI Impact Summit, Dale Strange, President & COO of Blackbaud’s Corporate Impact group, led a panel on social impact as a business imperative. Gina Rude, US Corporate Citizenship Manager at Accenture, and Francine Chew, Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Guardian, discussed how they ensure those investments align with strategic business goals, how businesses can recommit to social impact initiatives, and the challenges of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The primary takeaway from the conversation was that CSR leaders must think about what they can do to create measurable impact, what the organization’s long-term goals are, and how they can articulate the work in a way that resonates with their stakeholders. This can be accomplished with a focus on three key tactics.
Aligning Business Strategies with Social Impact
Data shows that consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion, and defend companies with a strong purpose. Investors are now very intentional about whether or not they invest in companies that are committed to a social purpose. How can businesses balance conversations around the desire to drive meaningful change in society with internal business goals or profitability?
Gina discussed Accenture’s unique position as a B2B company and the emphasis on leveraging their people as a valuable resource for social impact. She emphasized the importance of workforce development and sustainability in creating real change in communities.
Francine explained how Guardian integrated CSR and ESG efforts under a corporate impact umbrella. This approach focuses on driving cultural change within the organization, increasing visibility, and ultimately showcasing the positive contributions Guardian makes to society.
Engaging Employees for Social Good
There is a critical role of employee engagement in driving social impact. Employees are increasingly seeking out purpose-driven organizations and value opportunities for volunteering and giving back to their communities.
Gina shared Accenture’s success in engaging employees by leveraging their YourCause from Blackbaud platform, which allows individuals to track their volunteer hours and contribute to causes they care about. This platform not only promotes volunteering within the company but also empowers employees to support external initiatives that align with their personal passions.
Francine acknowledged that Guardian is still refining its approach to colleague engagement, with a focus on encouraging employees to track their activities and participation in CSR programs. She highlighted the importance of storytelling and marketing campaigns to inspire employees to get involved and see the direct impact of their efforts.
Addressing Sensitive Topics in CSR
ESG and CSR initiatives can be under scrutiny at times. There are challenges of navigating sensitive topics in CSR, particularly those related to race and underrepresented groups. There is a need for organizations to take a stand and set clear criteria and priorities for their initiatives, even in the face of potential controversy.
Gina shared the importance of maintaining an equity and equality lens in CSR efforts, which allows Accenture to tackle complex societal issues and engage employees in meaningful ways. Francine touched on Guardian providing a platform to track what they are doing in the community and helping their employees and key stakeholders see the impact that is being made to solve these larger problems.
The landscape of corporate social responsibility is complex, and these are just some strategies that can drive meaningful social impact. By aligning business strategies with social causes, engaging employees in volunteering and giving, and addressing sensitive topics, organizations can demonstrate the positive impact on society while also achieving business goals. For any organization, a commitment to corporate social responsibility is a business imperative and should be prioritized in 2024.
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