Conservative economist Milton Friedman famously proclaimed in 1962 that business has one — and only one — social responsibility, which is to increase profits. Today, however, business leaders and students alike are thinking more broadly. The concept of the triple bottom line (TBL), introduced in 1994, says the emphasis on profits must also be bolstered by a commitment to social and environmental improvement as well. That is, making money is just as important as how that money is made. The TBL is often summarized as the 3 Ps — profit, people and planet.
Since the TBL emerged as an acceptable approach to business practices, an increasing number of companies have launched social responsibility initiatives touching on a wide range of societal needs. Some of the biggest examples include:
CSR is Good Business
A 2011 report by The Conference Board finds that there is a substantial business case to be made for CSR. Another report from the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation reached the same conclusion that same year. Both reports list several attractive elements of CSR, including:
Job Seekers Want CSR
Today, people want to know they’re making an impact that goes beyond their jobs — and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. A recent survey reported in Forbes indicates that job seekers are very interested in CSR. In the survey, 35 percent of potential employees would be willing to take a 15 percent job cut to work for a company with a strong commitment to CSR. In addition, 45 percent of respondents said they would take the 15 percent cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact, and 58 percent would take the cut to work for an organization “with values like my own.”
Knowing this, employers need to provide an environment where employees feel like they are solving social problems and making a difference. Sometimes this is difficult, as social change is not always part of the job description. Companies can embrace CSR in the employee experience by providing volunteer opportunities for workers, either as individuals or as part of a company group. Many progressive employers are now offering paid time off for volunteer work.
Millennials, who are leading the charge for greater social awareness in business, will make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. Deloitte says that 44 percent of millennials have turned down a job offer because of an organization’s values.
Make CSR Your Brand
The best CSR programs in the world won’t be effective in helping with recruiting if job seekers don’t know about them. That’s why CSR needs to be part of the employment brand – the narrative about what the organization does, what it stands for, and what it’s like to work there. CSR initiatives need to be profiled on the organization’s career pages and broadcast through social media. Make sure to discuss CSR as a benefit and differentiator when speaking with job candidates.
Emphasizing CSR during the interview process can help improve retention rates, as the CSR information aligns with the organizational structure and values. If a candidate doesn’t like what he or she hears about the CSR efforts, he or she might not be a good cultural fit and might decide to seek jobs elsewhere. That’s a good thing, as hiring people who aren’t a good match can lead to quick quits and reduced productivity.