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When organizations do the right thing, value can extend far beyond the good deed itself. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help drive better business outcomes, attract likeminded partners, increase employee engagement and more.

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help organizations drive better business outcomes, attract likeminded partners, increase employee engagement and more.

“Just like human resources years ago … CSR is going to grow into a strategic partner in the company,” John Matthews, SAP’s global vice president of HCM LoB Business Partner, Global Customer Strategy & Business Operations, said on Changing The Game with HR last week. “Doing good is also good for business.”

CSR refers to how organizations go above and beyond to evaluate and own their environmental and social impacts. But growing into strategic partnership with other, more quantifiable lines of business would require objective CSR metrics.

Quantifying Good Deeds

“We’re going to see the emergence of an index that captures the corporate social responsibility agenda … the responsibility with which companies act,” Chris Johnson, senior partner at New York-based human resources consulting firm Mercer, said on Changing the Game with HR. “And the index will be a key part of how the company will be accountable to its shareholders.”

If this seems farfetched, consider that shareholders are also beginning to demand sustainability. And organizations already get rated as best places to work, on work-life balance and many other ratings; and Mercer even sponsors the Britain’s Healthiest Company index.

Johnson predicts a CSR index within the decade.

“It could be a very public account — a transparency and public accountability thing,” Johnson said. Advocacy groups “will be able to go to those companies that are low down [on] the index, and offer them a way of clamoring up the index and demonstrating their broader responsibility to society.”

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“People love to work for a corporation that is paying it forward,” Bonnie J. Addario, founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, said.

But CSR-minded organizations will still want a return on investment.

Paying It Forward

“Corporate social responsibility also helps the bottom line, meaning that it helps you build trust with customers, employees, as well as with your suppliers,” SAP’s Matthews said. “If you give them that guidance, that direction, and you’re clear on what matters, others will come running to you — and come running with you to help solve problems.”

One of Matthews’ “problems” is a 3,400-mile bicycle ride across the U.S. to raise awareness — and funds — for lung cancer research; he’s doing so in memory of his late mother who died of the disease. Whether the issue is healthcare, education or implementing design elements that cut costs by increasing energy efficiency, corporate social responsibility can be an effective way to increase employee engagement.

“People love to work for a corporation that is paying it forward,” Bonnie J. Addario, founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, said on Changing the Game with HR. “It’s not always about money … it’s about involvement — it’s about having an emotional connection.”

More Than A Cause

“CSR is becoming much more of a heritage asset, meaning people prefer their service efforts to leave lasting effects,” Kevin Xu, CEO of global intellectual property management company MEBO International, stated on Forbes CommunityVoice last month. “Rather than championing campaigns that make big splashes, businesses want to build and work toward causes that resonate with and get carried on by younger generations.”

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“We’re going to see the emergence of an index that captures the corporate social responsibility agenda … the responsibility with which companies act,” Chris Johnson, senior partner at New York-based human resources consulting firm Mercer, said.

These efforts can lead to new partnerships with likeminded organizations — what a wireless solutions provider’s CEO called a “return on doing good,” as opposed to a simple return on investment. And it’s a great way to build pride within the organization.

“I’ve already had 30 people from SAP from all across the world … who just heard what we were doing, and said, ‘How can I help?’” SAP’s Matthews said. “And it grows every day … so I’m very happy, fortunate and proud to work for SAP.”

Click here for a replay of this episode. And click here to learn more about Matthews’ ride. Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

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4 Comments

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  1. Joachim Rees

    Hey Derek,

    thanks for sharing!

    While I don’t really like the term “CSR”, I do agree that it is indeed important.

    More and more people do care very much if the company they (want to) work for is destroying or preserving our planet, and that a company not only is doing business but actually doing “good”.

    That’s why I so much like the “Economy for the Common Good” .

    Have a look at the “Common Good Balance Sheet” – that’s exactly the “index that captures the corporate social responsibility”, you point out as needed, isn’t it? How great that it already exists right now!

    How is SAP doing in this regard? It would be so great if they’d join the initiative and would publish a “Common Good Balance Sheet”!

    best

    Joachim

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    1. Derek Klobucher Post author

      Good point, Joachim. But I must give credit where credit is due: This is Chris Johnson’s prediction.

      That said, it’s great that indicies could already be competing to emerge as the standard by which we measure all CSR initiatives. The next steps would probably be perfecting the chosen index, and then getting everyone on board.

      In the meantime, you may have inspired the theme for Bonnie‘s next SAP Radio show!

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  2. Brian Wasson

    At SAP, Sustainability and CSR are sort of combined, and sort of separate (long history). But they function together, basically, and the terms are generally interchangeable in the external world (“sustainability” is generally considered the umbrella term by most pundits).

    Anyway, SAP has long been a leading voice in tying business outcomes to CSR/sustainability metrics, and was among the first companies to move from a traditional “annual report” to an “integrated report” that clearly shows how doing good/right impacts the bottom line.

    And, as Derek mentions, SAP has led many of the areas in the very well regarded Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for years.

    If you want to learn more about SAP’s sustainability and CSR efforts, visit the SAP corporate website 

     

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