can being a good corporate citizen turn into a business advantage?

Randstad research shows workers strongly prefer companies that support good causes.

Every worker wants an employer to be strong and healthy but what about being a good corporate citizen as well? As it turns out, an overwhelming majority of working adults prefer their employer to have a strong corporate social responsibility policy and a workforce whose diversity reflects its markets, according to a recent Randstad study. 

It’s no secret that employees prefer organizations that support a diverse number of social causes. After all, we all want to belong to groups doing good for our communities and society at large. As it turns out, nearly 80% of working-age adults around the world say they only want to work for a company with a strong corporate social responsibility program, according to the Randstad Q3 Workmonitor Report. Conducted in 34 countries through interviews with more than 13,000 working adults, the report gauges attitudes and behaviors of workers in major industrial markets.

download the full Randstad Workmonitor Q3 research report now

The results show that not only do workers want their employers to have a strong social responsibility policy in place, but they also care about workforce diversity, with 70% wanting the make-up of their workforce to reflect the diversity within local and national labor markets. The desire for companies to be diverse is especially high in China, the U.S. and India, where more than 80% of the respondents felt this way.

Worker enthusiasm for charitable causes shouldn’t come as a surprise because studies around the world have consistently shown that employees care about the impact their employers have on the environment, poverty and many other causes. Moreover, they don’t want their companies to simply write checks or endorse sound policies but to also actively engage employees and contribute in many ways other than through donations. This means promoting social justice, giving employees time off to spend on charities and offering other resources to non-profitable organizations.

Interestingly, executives also agree that corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives make good business sense, according to two researchers who published findings in Harvard Business Review. However, the professors who spearheaded the research also discovered that despite believing in the business case for CSR, they aren’t necessarily motivated to invest more in these projects. So is there a disconnect between workers and their executive leadership?

The researchers suggest that the gap isn’t the result of unwillingness to invest; rather, they believe many leaders aren’t aware of needs that need their attention. If they were more enlightened about how their companies affect a range of social issues, business leaders would be more likely to take a greater interest in pursuing these causes.

Conversely, companies perceived to be bad actors in their community can be severely punished by customers and consumers, according to Forbes. Kevin Xu, Founder of the Human Heritage Project, points out that 75% of consumers will take action against companies they find irresponsible. So even if a company lacks a strong social responsibility policy, it should at least ensure its policies and practices aren’t offensive to customers and workers. 

So how can the C-suite become more aware of CSR needs and address them with well-considered plans of action and follow up with funding to make a significant change? 
One answer is to turn to the workforce for guidance on how much and what causes to invest in. By listening to the concerns of their workers, executive leadership can learn more about what fans the passion of their organization and ensure engagement in these causes. Doing so will make sure their investments aren’t languishing due to lack of interest or indifference to these causes.

Another way to “sell” the idea of CSR initiatives is to leverage case studies, as Xu pointed out. Demonstrating how companies can make a difference in their communities or society at large is a powerful way to affirm the impact these programs have. For example, ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s was founded on the idea of continuously advancing social justice, promoting everything from responsible sourcing to a more equitable corporate compensation structure. It has been commended many times for its CSR policy and is often admired as an employer of choice. Clothing brand Patagonia also aggressively monitors its supply chain to ensure fair wage and safe working condition practices at its suppliers.

At the end of the day, not only do the efforts of these companies help win the hearts and minds of consumers but they also serve to attract the best talent, especially Millennials and Gen Z workers who value CSR more than other generations. So not only is a robust policy good for business, it also creates a competitive advantage in winning the war for talent.


download the full Randstad Workmonitor Q3 research report now

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