Need to know:
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies allow employers to highlight important values to staff.
- Employers can promote their CSR policies through certain benefits provision.
- CSR strategies are most effective when they are connected to the organisation as a business and an employer.
Employers take corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies seriously, and employees are also increasingly looking to the sustainability, value and impact that the businesses they work for have on the wider world.
For those organisations that place CSR high on the business agenda, aligning the policies with its benefits strategy can help the employer live its values.
Promotion through benefits scheme
A CSR strategy may involve charity partnerships or introducing benefits that enable staff to volunteer for worthy causes without losing pay. “CSR policies can be promoted very effectively through employee benefit schemes, particularly if they are an integral aspect of a scheme and not an after-thought,” says Robin Farwell, business development manager at Green Rewards. “Our experience is that organisations that link CSR to their employee benefits find it far easier to deliver their targets because everyone is being motivated to pull in the same direction.”
For example, coffee-shop chain Starbucks enables some employees to visit its locations in Africa to experience how it creates coffee from the source. “A group of employees also helped out on one of our farms in Africa, which lets them see the product being made with their own eyes, to really know what they’re selling,” says Rob Green, head of reward, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Starbucks.
Not only does this type of initiative engage staff with the brand they work for, it also gives the organisation a charitable edge.
The connection between CSR policies and benefits can be key to the success of a CSR strategy and fostering employee involvement, and so employers need to effectively communicate the values and the types of projects that are important to the organisation to give employees an understanding of what is being offered and why. “If employee rewards and benefits are designed with CSR as a priority, then staff will be very aware of the policy and its targets,” adds Farwell.
For example, property firm JLL upholds its CSR strategy, Building for Tomorrow, by linking it to staff recognition; any employees that opt to take part in its volunteering projects are able to utilise that experience in a case study if they are being considered for an internal promotion. JLL’s 2,500 staff are made aware of its CSR policy through internal communications strategies such as the organisation’s weekly staff newsletter, its internal social network Yammer and via a stream of 100 employees that make up its champions network, and who volunteer to promote its CSR policy and the benefits of taking part.
Employers should emphasise CSR activity and how it impacts an organisation and its workforce rather than simply informing employees about it. “Employers must give staff real examples of what their CSR policy does and involve them in its output so they start to feel it’s a living, breathing part of the organisation,” says Cathy Brown, executive director at Engage for Success.
To strengthen the link between CSR strategies and employee benefits, employers that are trying to reduce their carbon footprint could offer staff a bikes-for-work scheme, for example. Organisations looking to build on their charity work could make use of payroll giving schemes, or reward employees for a job well done by making charitable donations in their name to a cause of their choice.
An employer’s CSR strategy can include a range of social and environmental commitments from the business, and when aligned with its benefits offering, the strategy can truly engage workers.
Viewpoint: Volunteering brings CSR policies to life
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies too often sit on a website, poorly communicated, rarely visited and even more rarely understood by employees. So what can really bring them to life?
Employee volunteering is the most powerful mechanism that we come across at Business in the Community. For example, 80% of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of the community investment policies put in place by their employer, this falls to 44% when employees who do not volunteer, according to Business in the Community’s (BITC) CommunityMark holders 2014-15 research, published in July 2015.
Volunteering brings corporate responsibility to life for staff; it connects them directly to the issues that are being focused on and they feel part of their employer’s efforts.
BITC’s CommunityMark is its standard for excellence in community investment, and the 36 organisations that hold the standard are reaping the rewards of engaging their staff through volunteering.
In fact, 75% of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) staff that volunteer say it is helping them to develop faster and further in their roles. Zurich Insurance has seen volunteers report improved wellbeing and happiness (53%), increased understanding and empathy (61%), and increased awareness of social issues (68%). Manchester Airport Group reports that engagement is 18% higher in employees that volunteer. Significantly, the absence rate of volunteers is more than 3% lower than that of non-volunteers.
Employee volunteering as an engagement mechanism is only going to grow as the current government looks to build Britain’s volunteering culture. During the 2015 general election it announced that employees of large firms (those with over 250 staff) will be entitled to three volunteering days a year.
While details around the policy are still being worked out, it is sure to shine a much brighter light on employer-supported volunteering and the value it has.
Ethel Maldonado is community investment manager at Business in the Community.
Astellas reflects CSR policy through charitable giving
Astellas promotes its corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy by offering its 400 staff the opportunity to donate money to charity as they earn and volunteer for community projects. Employees also fundraise towards the organisation’s own foundation, the Astellas European Foundation, as well as its chosen corporate charity.
The pharmaceutical firm also has a ‘Give as you earn’ scheme in place, which allows staff to donate to its chosen charity, the Fistula Foundation, in a tax-efficient manner through payroll. The charity supports women who have developed the preventable condition of obstetric fistula after childbirth, as well as training surgeons to carry out surgery. Robert Wigmore, senior manager, reward at Astellas, says: “We chose a charity that many people haven’t come across before, to make sure we were really making a difference.”
Astellas also promotes volunteering opportunities on local community projects, such as building or decorating schools for children with learning difficulties. Wigmore says: “Charitable giving and volunteering is never a pressurised situation but it is something our employees are encouraged to do. We also lead from the top down, so our [chief executive officer] always takes part.
“These types of opportunities also give staff a chance to mix with colleagues they may not already know, and socialise out of work,” he adds.
These initiatives not only emphasise Astellas’ CSR policy, but are also implemented off the back of employee feedback to ensure good staff engagement.
Wigmore says: “We want to help our staff have a better quality of life, which is why we try to offer good benefits and opportunities to allow staff to give something back. This is helping us become an employer of choice.”