Your CSR Program Needs Ownership. Here’s How to Get Your Employees to Embrace It.
All companies should have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) or social impact program. Ten years ago, many C-Suite executives would have dismissed this statement. But today, it is more unusual if a company is not investing in their internal and external communities, than if it is. CECP reports in Giving in Numbers: 2017 that median total corporate giving increased 2.3% between 2014 and 2016, and that 35% of companies expect their corporate giving to increase between 2% and 10% in 2017, illustrating that companies are and will remain committed to corporate giving. Corporate social responsibility programs have become just another factor of life for the corporate world.
But, are these programs as effective as they could be? CB Bhattacharya recently discussed the sustainability of corporate giving programs in the Harvard Business Review. He posits that while everyone loves the idea of corporate giving, very few make the program’s success his or her responsibility. And, really just one thing differentiates successful programs from unsuccessful: ownership. Enabling all of a company’s stakeholders (i.e., executives, investors, and employees) to feel ownership for the program is key. Luckily, convincing companies to incorporate ownership is simple, as it has additional positive benefits, such as increasing employee engagement and productivity, which increases profits.
Dr. Bhattacharya proposes a three-step process to establishing ownership with all stakeholders: incubation, launching, and entrenching. These three phases create ownership by first finding social impact priorities related to the company’s mission, then selling these social impact priorities to stakeholders, and finally, ensuring that the social impact priorities become apart of daily life. While Dr. Bhattacharya’s proposal is sound, a slightly different methodology could be just as effective, and perhaps more effective in convincing one key stakeholder, employees.
Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication recently published Evan Parker’s research, Altruism, Empathy and Efficacy: The Science Behind Engaging Your Supporters. While this research advances our current understanding of nonprofit donor motivations and finds new ways to compel donors to give, Mr. Parker also dives into a topic that is applicable to the corporate space: the case for support. Typically the case for support allows nonprofits to utilize the science behind pro-social behavior to connect with supporters and compel them to give to their cause, i.e., this nonprofit/campaign is the best and only way to cure cancer or save the planet for these 5 reasons. Similarly, companies can create a case for support for their employees to convince them that supporting the company’s social impact priorities, i.e., taking ownership, will make the company and society a better place to work and live.
Mr. Parker posits that the primary reason the case for support is so compelling is because it features the benefit to the supporter and illustrates why supporters should care. A case for support is a compilation of 5 parts: the need, the beneficiary, the supporter’s involvement, the urgency and the differentiator. Each part is defined by how the supporter can makes themselves feel good about making a difference in the world, while also making the world a better place. How will this create ownership? Well, instead of just creating a connection between a company and its social impact priorities, the case for support connects stakeholders to a company’s social impact priorities. Employees must feel responsible and a part of a company’s social mission, and the case for support creates this experience for them. Creating ownership is not easy but the case for support will encourage employees to start owning their companies CSR programs.
Rebecca Mitsch is a graduate student in the Public Relations & Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University, graduating in May 2018. With prior experience in program administration, she is now pursuing a career in corporate social impact communications. She has successfully combined her desire to give back to communities with her proven skills of storytelling and employee engagement and enjoys helping companies increase their impact while engaging their employees and empowering their brand.