You’ve probably heard about its importance, but what is the purpose of corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Consumers have become more aware of the motives behind the businesses they frequent and want the companies they support to share their ideas, invest in positive non-profits, and make good choices for their employees and the environment. At the same time, getting onboard with corporate social responsibility isn’t just about looking good to potential customers. It’s also about providing safe and quality work to employees and meeting the needs and expectations of customers on every level.

While corporate social responsibility can be about doing good in ways that don’t relate to business, 2019’s corporate social responsibility trends definitely steer towards implementing ideas that directly benefit your business and your bottom line.

Looking for the next big thing in corporate social responsibility? We’ve forecasted 5 trends that you should consider incorporating into your CSR strategy.

1. Get Involved in Social Issues

Organizations of every size are increasingly involving themselves with social issues, picking sides to show customers where they stand. This type of corporate social responsibility can cost you, customers, when they disagree, but it will show a strong alignment with your existing values, and that you’re not afraid to lose customers who don’t align with those values.

How does that look in real life? When NFL star Colin Kaepernick took a knee instead of standing for the flag, he created a string of controversy around a huge social issue (police brutality, racial inequality, respect for the police, and much more). Colin Kaepernick received major backlash for his actions and was not resigned after his contract NFL expired. Nike eventually extended its contract with Kaepernick, releasing a promotional video supporting his cause and firmly aligning their brand with it. The move, which resulted in people boycotting Nike, also resulted in increased awareness, and Nike saw (after a temporary drop) a stock-share increase to near-record highs, although the increase is related to many other factors. This is one of the major corporate social responsibility trends, but it is risky in that your customer-base may not align with it, but if you’ve communicated values clearly enough, they likely will.

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2. Engage Employees on Every Level

The benefits of corporate social responsibility for employees include education, re-education, and training all these are becoming increasingly important, especially as diversity, equality, and social responsibility become larger issues. Here, education programs serve to ensure every employee is aware of the company code of ethics, expectations in terms of harassment and bullying, and that everyone is aware of good communication techniques for sharing, listing grievances, and de-escalation of situations.

Training employees in social responsibility, communication, emotional intelligence, and in basic behavior and ethics or code of conduct are important for ensuring everyone has a pleasant and safe place to work. This also means getting leaders and management onboard, introducing them to training first, and pushing good behavior from the top down.

3. Hire for Diversity and Equality

Diversity and equality are more pressing concerns than ever and hiring to be diverse have its own benefits. For example, hiring people from different walks of life will greatly increase creativity, cultural exposure, and likely out-of-the-box thinking inside your office. While diversity has been a key issue for more than 15 years, it remains one of the key corporate social responsibility trends in 2019.

Here, hiring goals should focus on recruiting for diversity, including persons of ethnic, African, Hispanic, and other descent, as well as persons who are openly gay or trans. At the same time, education initiatives should be introduced to reduce discrimination against women (especially pregnant women and mothers), against gay men and women, and people of color in any circumstance. Balancing initiatives for hiring and education to ensure new hires are welcome will significantly aid in increasing the diversity of your workforce over the long-term.

How does this pay off as a business goal? Hiring for diversity means that you have more candidates available, more cultural backgrounds to choose from, and more perspectives on work. Culturally diverse teams are more creative, better at problem-solving, and often happier, simply because they can apply several points of views to a problem or situation.

4. Volunteering Employee Time

Volunteering time is increasingly popular for corporate social responsibility benefits, and there are several ways to go about it. One of the most common is to ask employees to volunteer a small portion of their time each week to a cause or issue. Another option is to make that volunteer time part of their paid working hours with your organization so that the organization is creating the initiative. So, people can volunteer and do work during their paid working hours.

Volunteer work doesn’t pay off for every organization, but for many, it does. One prime example is in the hospitality industry, which frequently struggles with excess food and therefore, food waste. Having employees package leftover food and deliver it to homeless shelters at the end of their shift would be an easy way to add to corporate social responsibility through volunteerism, without actually increasing costs a great deal. Similarly, companies working to provide professional services could offer those services free of charge to a tiny pool of people in need as part of their paid work, individuals can donate time and professional work in their industry to a cause, and so on.

5. Prevention Not Relief

While many corporate social responsibility efforts are geared towards large-scale donations and flashy aid or relief actions, these often have a great deal less impact than smaller, preventive measures. Organizations that want to reduce instances of sexual assault would be better off offering education and educating their own workforce. Banks wishing to prevent massive debt would be better off creating financial literacy programs than massive debt forgiveness programs, and so on. Preventing major issues is often a case of recognizing risks in your organization or your community and taking steps to prevent them, many of which are relatively small and cost-effective. Taking steps to solve major problems after they’ve happened typically involved a great deal more money and won’t always have the same financial payoff.

Advantages of corporate social responsibility aren’t about writing checks and cashing them. Instead, it’s about making sustainable changes to business practices that show good business results. This is the largest trend in corporate social responsibility for 2019, and one that will continue to be important. Taking this step often means identifying goals that align with your business values and industry, and then applying practices and processes to do good inside that goal.

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