Opinion

How corporate social responsibility can help you retain and attract employees

4 min read

27 June 2018

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than just a pedestal for businesses to stand upon when wanting to express the kind of values that consumers have come to expect.

It’s easy to see why to some, CSR simply feels like window dressing; appropriating ethics in order to stand out against the competition when hard to beat on price, product or customer service.

However, the positive impact of a successful CSR strategy can extend beyond customer perception and any good that the business has done in the world through its charitable initiatives. For the workforce, a greater sense of meaning can be derived from their own involvement in business-led CSR activities.

In late 2017, Feefo reached its fundraising target of £24,000 for water charity Just a Drop. That money has now been used to fund a sand dam close to Mbasya village in Makueni County, Kenya, which will change the lives of the 2,860 people living there.

Reaching the fundraising target entailed numerous challenges chosen, organised and completed by staff across the company. These challenges ranged from marathons, mountain climbing, cross-continental car races and more, all for the same goal of safe water and sanitation to a community in need.

Any stigma attached to the idea of a business of any size taking part in charitable activity must be disregarded. There is no real stigma attached to individuals making their own decisions to get involved in charitable activity outside their professional lives.

So why should it be different for businesses with the resources and people power to raise substantially higher funds for worthy causes?

What’s more, businesses with CSR strategies actively encourage individuals to take part in such activities when previously the individuals may not have done so without encouragement.

Not only do these organisations raise awareness for the issues that CSR activities tackle among customers, staff and partners, they unify the workforce in various ways, resulting in increased agility throughout the organisation.

A successful CSR strategy will provide the workforce with a greater understanding of the core values of the business, and in turn those values will be better translated to the business’ clientele.

Ultimately this can benefit the business too, by promoting collaboration and communication between teams that have historically seemed alien to each other. Working towards a shared extracurricular goal will strengthen the workforce’s towards working together to achieve the same business goals.

In Feefo’s charitable efforts, the senior staff have shared involvement with the wider workforce. Encouraging involvement across all levels of the business not only encourages greater collaboration with colleagues and teams that have previously been unfamiliar with each other, it can humanise the C-suite.

Promoting clarity and collaboration across the hierarchy is equally as important as promoting collaboration across the sub-senior workforce.

Increased engagement with the C-suite will not only make the workforce feel more valued and respected by their employer, removing any sense of an ‘us vs. them’ division, it will also open up the opportunity for the company vision and business strategy to trickle down through the hierarchy, bolstering the unified workforce.

Businesses should bear the recruitment and retention benefits in mind when contemplating the value of CSR. A charitable ethos could be an important element when an applicant is deciding whether yours is the type of business they can see themselves working for. For existing employees, job satisfaction could be boosted by the understanding that they are part of an organisation that actively works towards a greater good.

Clearly there are true benefits in CSR aside from sycophantic posturing, otherwise the likes of Coca-Cola, Alphabet and Microsoft would not have invested so heavily in it.