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Banking on Employee Engagement in CSR

What's your road map for advancing CSR? If it doesn't include employee engagement, chances are you won't get far.

BNY Mellon's corporate social responsibility agenda calls for fostering an engaged workforce, community investment and environmentinal sustainability. But employee engagement definitely drives the other two goals, according to R. Jeep Byrant, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs Officer for BNY Mellon.

Bryant outlined four fundamentals for strong employee engagement in corporate social responsibility in his presentation at the Ethical Corporation’s recent Responsible Business Summit 2011. Speakers and participants from around the globe gathered  in New York for two days to explore best practices for embedding sustainability in their organizations. Not surprisingly, employee engagement surfaced as a sine qua non for advancing a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda. Bryant shared four proven techniques successfully used at BNY Mellon. 

1.  Establish strong CSR program governance. BNY Mellon's CSR structure includes a CSR Committee of Board of Directors and CSR council of senior managers representing all bus, noting that strong, clear governance assures the support of top management, conveys the importance of CSR, and gets buy-in from all areas of the business.

2.  Showcase CSR's impact on bottom line. Demonstrate – and quantify wherever possible – the value added of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Show how CSR efforts can drive revenue through new products, improved recruiting and retention of top talent, and reduced risk and cost. Several BNY Mellon colleagues saw a business opportunity for carbon servicing/trading and the result is a new business area: Environment Innovation Solutions. In another instance, the BNY Mellon Human Resource department, like many others, conducts a global engagement survey annually and uses the results for business planning at regional and business unit level and with managers.

3.  Link CSR activities to strategic priorities. Doing good for it's own sake is fine, but it isn’t enough. Employees need to feel that their activities can be mapped to the company's strategic priorities. BNY Mellon's Sustainability Ambassadors champions the company's paper reduction effort, knowing that they are contributing to a key cost-cutting effort and environmental goal.  The bank's Community Partnership program is a cornerstone of employee engagement.  In recent years the program has moved beyond an annual United Way giving campaign and it now provides extensive range of choice with company matches to 5,000 community organizations. Bryant reports that employee giving increased dramatically after the company expanded the organizations which qualify for matching gifts.

4. Make it personal. Look for ways to recognize employee' contributions. Use employee-based success stories in your CSR report. Try spotlighting employee teams on a regional basis.  Asking for employee input builds engagement. For the first time, Bryant invited a select group of employees to critique the BNY Mellon 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report and found them to be a great sounding board. He also advocates opening a candid dialog with your CSR council.  Ask them: How do you think we are doing?



Cindy Mehallow

Cindy Mehallow is principal of CRM Communications, a woman-owned sustainability communications consulting practice specializing in corporate social responsibility reporting and stakeholder communications. GRI-Certified in sustainability reporting, Cindy has produced award-winning sustainability reports for Fortune 500 clients in a variety of industries.

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