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Replacing CSR with Human Social Responsibility: People First

By CSRWire Blogs

Submitted by Kelly Eisenhardt

Corporations are often accused of emphasizing profits over people. Over the last decade, many have built programs in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to counteract those claims. Accusations continue to grow stating that the efforts are about protecting brands and not the people or communities in which corporations operate. The next evolution of CSR is on the way and its focus is on the global workforce and local communities.

Rachel Hutchisson is Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy at Blackbaud, a leading technology company that equips and connects the worldwide social good community, providing cloud-based and on premise financial, fundraising, grant-making and administrative software for individuals, nonprofits, foundations and corporations.  She is responsible for global corporate social responsibility (CSR), leading the company’s 3,300+ associates in efforts to serve and give both through professional and personal avenues. Ms. Hutchisson also serves on the Board of Directors of the Giving Institute, providers of the annual Giving USA study, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Learning to Give and the Coastal Community Foundation. 

What is Human Social Responsibility and how does it impact corporate social responsibility? 

Human Social Responsibility (HSR) is the shift in focus from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to a more people and community centric effort. By shifting from a corporate focus to a human focus, barriers are broken down with regard to who is at the heart of an organization and who gets a seat at the decision-making table.

How can companies that are further down in the supply chain apply these principles when their budgets and staff are limited?

I have a fundamental belief in my life and my work that good is for everyone.  Doing good can be wired into any organization, regardless of size. Looking specifically at companies, it’s important firms of all sizes are realistic about why they are building programs and what they want to accomplish, especially if resources are limited. 

There are many smaller scale projects organizations can take on. It might not be wiseto jump in and tackle a big carbon footprint project right away but, instead, start small with something like a recycling program. It could be as simple as implementing a bike rack program or maybe an energy usage project to find small ways to use less and be more efficient. 

Another thing to think about is not getting too caught up in acronyms and buzzwords. Companies that call these efforts CSR might create a problem in doing so. Language is an important signal and, sometimes, can create barriers. In this case, the acronym CSR puts the emphasis on the corporation and not on humans.

With more than 70% of the U.S. workforce employed by small and medium businesses, using terminology that denotes a faceless monolithic corporation isn’t relatable or even realistic. We need to take a step back and realize that people bring their whole selves to work every day. When employees have these passions and can actively engage them at work, they feel more connected. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business with 10 employees, 5,000 employees, or 50,000 employees. 

Why is it necessary to shift from “corporate” to “human” social responsibility?

There are two reasons that stand out – employee retention and engagement and branding. 

The shift I’m describing is necessary in order to celebrate the people who bring value to the company. It’s been demonstrated that shifting the focus from corporate to human is a clear boost to recruiting and retaining good talent. When polled, 86% of my colleagues stated that the fact we worked in the world of social good mattered to them when they joined the company. Having that focus enables them to feel good about where they work and take pride in being part of the effort. 

Brand awareness is another reason to shift from a corporate focus to one that is more human centric. Being aware of what is being said about your brand provides clear direction about what matters most to customers and clients. It demonstrates how social good is important to your base. Being better aligned enables customers to share positive stories that then become your company’s stories. When you align with your customers, they become brand ambassadors.

And it can’t go unsaid that the workforce of Millennials want to be engaged in the world and that means at work, too. Every company is thinking about how to attract Millennials to their workforce. 

All of this contributes to what I like to call Daily DNA. It is the rising up of many to collectively do more good together. It’s a call to leadership to embrace the human contracts we all sign with the world, empowering our people to engage in a job that allows them to contribute in meaningful ways.

How does shifting to a more community based mindset help a company’s brand and bottom line?

There is a stereotype that companies are only in the game to make money. This is true to some extent because they need to be profitable in order to stay in business. However, this stereotype is one-dimensional and does not add the important element of community engagement.

When we make decisions at Blackbaud, we always think about the power of the ecosystem “to do good.” This concept is something we want to share with the world.

With a focus on providing technology solutions and data that power social good, we jump in as active participants. Blackbaud does this by helping nonprofits raise money, helping granters give, and providing technology to make it all possible. For us, it’s about contributing in the best way our organization can and caring about where we live. It builds a sense of pride in our community. We truly believe that when you have happy employees, they work harder and that has tangible hard benefits like lower costs, higher retention, happier customers and both organizational and financial health for the company.

Always remember, there is a cost to not caring about the people you employ. When people feel you don’t care, they are more likely to disengage their passion and just show up for work. They aren’t unified in their efforts and can make costly mistakes. Rather than have those consequences reach your customers, it’s better to support a positive momentum that transfers to higher customer satisfaction. 

Can you share a few examples where you have witnessed this mindset and its positive impacts?

I can start by sharing an example from our own organization.

We have a sales leader who struggled as a teen after the loss of his father. During that tumultuous time, he turned to nonprofits for help, but he didn’t receive the assistance he needed. As he began to grow up, he thought about his experience and how he didn’t want other families and kids to go through what he did. This prompted him to get engaged with Big Brothers Big Sisters and further invest in a career through which he could do good work that was personally fulfilling.

This philosophy extends across the organization. We have another person in sales who believes in “selling with a noble purpose,” meaning his motivation to close a deal is not the money but an emphasis on making sure the client has everything it needs to accomplish its mission. When you think in these terms about your work, it changes the orientation of how people view themselves every day.

Change is constant including the composition of the global workforce. There is a huge phenomenon happening now with regard to people changing careers in search of something more meaningful. Many people are rethinking life as an employee and how they can intertwine their values and beliefs into the work they do. This doesn’t mean we all need to work for nonprofits, but many people are thinking about how they can work for organizations where they can do good things and add positive value to the world.

What were the key points in your TEDxWilmington presentation and did the audience have any thoughts to share?

The biggest takeaway from my TEDxWilmington speaking engagement http://livestream.com/TEDx/WilmingtonDE is that good is for everyone and it’s not exclusive to any one person or business. We can all find ways to add positive value.

Terminology is important as well. The focus on the word corporate can detract from the focus on people. People really do bring their whole selves to work. It’s understandable that a company cannot take on every endeavor that is suggested, but if the interests in social good are being ignored, it can negatively affect the workforce. 

We have to think about how to enable the shift to happen. The straight-forward answer is by empowering employees to be agents of good, by paying attention to what issues align with the values of the workforce and how it is relevant to the corporate strategy, and finally by understanding every employee and customer is a brand ambassador. 

How can readers learn more about switching to a human social responsibility platform and where can they learn more about your work? 

Readers can learn more about social responsibility by going to our website http://npengage.com/social-good/the-era-of-corporate-social-responsibility-is-ending-why-thats-a-good-thing/ and by visiting our home page  https://www.blackbaud.com/.