How Corporate Social Responsibility Drives Business Performance

December 14, 2017

How Corporate Social Responsibility Drives Business Performance

Business leaders are often ready to invest in employee benefits and perks in their mission to improve culture, boost staff engagement and retain their best people. These initiatives can come in many forms, e.g. outings, holidays, gym membership, etc. However, these are quick fixes that will tick the required employee engagement boxes to please the board and temporarily make your people happy. They will never achieve long-term, sustainable engagement.

Today’s workers want to feel proud of the organization they work for, and they want to contribute to a bigger cause than your business’s balance sheet. Therefore, it is key to focus on purpose over perks. Businesses with a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative can drive their performance and boost retention and recruitment rates.

CSR is about a business being accountable for its activities and practices that affect the community, environment and society in general. An effective CSR initiative will enrich and contribute to them all.

Retail giant Target has a strong CSR program where five percent of its profit goes to local communities. They have programs where they invest in the growth of sustainable practices and provide educational grants. This amounts to millions of dollars every week. Most businesses can’t make as much as an impact as Target, but doing your part will go a long way. A recent study by The Conversation cited more than 90% of business students in a study on corporate social responsibility said they would be willing to sacrifice some percentage of their future salary to work for a responsible employer.

Here are some ways a strong CSR improves business performance.

Boosts employee retention

It is key to the success of your business to make adjustments to improve your employees’ working lives. By driving CSR initiatives, communicating the progress of them to everyone and working responsibly and sustainably — you will create a business that people will be proud to work for. This will lead to higher retention rates, and will also help your recruitment initiatives. Invest in your people and they will return the favor and invest in you.

Failure to create a business that really makes a difference can be the difference between holding on to your key staff, or losing them to competitors. A study by Babson College discovered businesses with a commitment to sustainability could see productivity increases by 13% and turnover reductions by up to 50%.

Attracts talent and enhances reputation

Offering a strong and well-communicated CSR program will help transform your business into a magnet for the best talent.

According to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, 59% of millennials believe businesses solve the challenges that concern them and are not fully realizing their potential to alleviate societal concerns.

This highlights how the new generation of worker pays a lot of attention to the social impact that businesses have on the wider community. They are becoming more environmentally- and ethically-minded. It is therefore, important for them to find a business that aligns with their views and provides a platform for them to make a difference. To attract and retain the next generation of workers, you must demonstrate the need to conduct business ethically and sustainably.

A strong CSR initiative is a key component to improve your company’s reputation and help position you as an ethical and responsible alternative to your competitors. It serves to create and sustain trust between your company and your clients. Thus, attracting new business/partnerships, reinforcing existing relationships, and increasing market share.

Creates a culture of engagement

Everyone wants to feel proud of the company they work for. If your people have a positive outlook towards the way you operate and they align with your methods, they are far more likely to be engaged in their work and dedicated to helping your business achieve its goals. 

Kenexa Research Institute performed a study on CSR program perceptions and discovered that 86% of those satisfied with their employer’s CSR commitment had high levels of engagement. An engaged workforce is a vital component for any successful organisation.


Communication is key to generating staff buy-in. To successfully embed your CSR program into the company culture, you must make it central to your communications and post regular action plans and updates. Utilize all your resources when trying to build up momentum for the program. You can communicate through email, intranet, posters, social media and even public addresses.

You must attract everyone’s attention and ensure they understand why you are doing this, what their roles will be and what you want to achieve. To really make an impact you will have to think outside of the box. For example, if you are driving a recycling scheme to reduce unnecessary waste, you could sponsor a local recycling charity, create time in people’s calendars for them to go out into the community and collect recycling or even do a sponsored run to raise awareness. This is more impactful than an email or a note from the CEO at the bottom of your company newsletter.

Another effective way to communicate with your people is through real-time pulse surveys. By sending out surveys related to your CSR programme you can gather valuable insights and discover what your people feel about the impact it is having. This will help you to build on successes, address/rectify concerns and learn from everyone’s ideas and innovations. It also highlights how much you value everyone’s input, which goes a long way.

By creating long-term, sustainable CSR initiatives, you will promote your business favourably to existing and potential clients, and create a workforce that are proud to work for you. This will help you generate profits through referrals, repeat business and enhanced staff productivity.

The Authors: 

Tony Latter is the CEO & cofounder of The Happiness Index. Tony has over 13 years of experience in growing companies (including IPC Media and AXA), working in new business acquisition and managing teams.