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The Changing Climate of CSR in 2017

By 3p Contributor

By Nita Kirby 

As the world continues to push toward sustainability and environmental protection, corporations must strive to keep up. In the last few years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts have increased and mutated to cater to consumers’ increasing demands. In 2016, 64 percent of CEOs planned to increase their investments in CSR. In 2017, we can expect to see that trend continue.

We also anticipate that due to today’s political climate, CSR is beginning to change along with it and affect all aspects of our lives. In addition to increased investments and initiatives, a few more changes are beginning to take place.

1.Corporations teaming up with nonprofit partners

One of the biggest changes we can expect to see in 2017 is an increase in nonprofit organizations partnering with corporations. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense: Nonprofits have the cause, but not the financial and resource support. Corporations have the dollars and people, but they don't always have the bandwidth to devote to a cause. It’s win-win.

Moreover, as the line between business and politics becomes ever more blurred, corporations are likely to take stances on certain issues.

Teaming up with a nonprofit that works for their preferred cause is an easy way to show what they stand for and the causes to which they are committed.  In our own system, CyberGrants, a CSR  and services company which processes nearly 40 percent of all corporate giving, saw sharp increases in donations to both the ACLU and IRC in the days following the administration’s executive order on immigration.

In a great example of playing to your strengths, delivery network company Roadie recently teamed up with Goodwill to provide free delivery and pick-up of donated items. Roadie will pick up any unwanted items from those wanting to donate — absolutely free — through the months of January and February. Goodwill benefits from extra donated items, and Roadie gets free press (along with doing good).

2. Increased branding via CSR

With or without CSR, company culture is becoming more important in the workplace. However, in 2017 company culture is likely to be more defined and influenced by CSR efforts.

A recent survey revealed 63 percent of workers prioritize sustainability when considering employment. That means employers will need to incorporate CSR into their branding, or risk losing qualified talent.

Rather than a side project, CSR efforts are becoming entwined with companies’ core identity. CSR won’t be something a company does anymore; it will be a part of who they are.

One of the most famous companies to make CSR a party of its identity is Toms shoes. Since the beginning, Toms has donated one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. And the company's one-for-one model gave many companies the incentive to follow in its footsteps.

We see this happening already this year, with companies like Lyft, Google, Amazon and Microsoft stepping up donations to refugee-focused charities and building funds for legal battles over immigration edicts being distributed from the White House.

3. Moving to sustainable resources

According to the United Nations, if the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, we would need almost three planets’ worth of resources to sustain our current lifestyle. As companies and consumers begin to realize the situation we are in, the pathway becomes clear.

In 2017 and beyond, companies must make the move toward sustainable resources. Already, virgin resources are becoming more costly and more difficult to obtain. If not from a desire to do good, in the near future we will begin to see companies making this change out of necessity.

In 2015 Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was ready to "start leading the way toward reducing carbon emissions from manufacturing.” The tech giant is now working to source 100 percent of its paper packaging from renewable resources. And this year, it holds the 84th spot on Forbes’ 100 Most Sustainable Companies -- after being absent from the list a year earlier. 

4. Employees are getting more involved

The next change we see is coming from the rising percentage of millennials in the workforce. Already, 62 percent of them would take pay cuts to work for a company that’s socially responsible. But more than that, millennial employees want to be directly involved in their companies’ CSR efforts.

Millennials see their workplace as an extension of their personal brand, and therefore want it to reflect the causes they care about. As more of them begin to take senior positions in the workforce, we will start to see businesses change from the top down.

Indeed, some millennials are even creating their own companies that are devoted to giving back. The startup company Love Your Melon, founded in 2012, began as class project. Its mission is to give 50 percent of its profits to children with cancer, and it quickly led to long-term success. In 2017 and beyond, we can expect to see more companies and more millennials following their example.

While millennials are leading the charge, we’re seeing top executives leaving lucrative posts due to political activity by their employers. One Oracle employee famously left his job when Oracle's CEO decided to become part of the new administration’s transition technology team.

One thing we know for certain is 2017 will continue to develop the CSR dialogue. The Internet, smartphones and social media are leading to an increasingly interconnected world. That means business, politics, personal lives and, yes, CSR initiatives are slowly melding into one entity.

While it may be tricky to navigate at first, the interconnectivity of the world means we can do more good and give more back than ever before.

Image credit: Pixabay

Ms. Nita Kirby serves as Director of Client Strategy and oversees CyberGrants’ strategic service management with a majority of its corporate clients. In addition, Nita is responsible for ensuring the success of philanthropic programs for many of CyberGrants’ key customers and oversees process improvements for how the company manages its client’s programs and relationships. This effort includes detailed benchmarking, employee engagement methodologies and financial modeling. Nita serves on numerous non-profit and volunteer boards and continues to stay engaged with the local non-profits community. Nita has worked for one of largest non-profits in the US, where she provided extensive support to some of the largest employee giving programs in the country.

With a BS in Business Administration and vast experience in program development and administrative protocol, this experience has allowed Nita to incorporate best practice processes in each of her client engagements and focus on deliverables and client satisfaction. In addition, Nita is a Lean Six Sigma certified Green Belt providing her with expanded insight into how processes affect outcomes.

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