Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Reach and Engage Job Seekers

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:

  • Coca-Cola is highly involved in sustainable packaging and recycling efforts.
  • PepsiCo has stated its intention to make its existing products more nutritious and to introduce healthier options in the future.
  • Johnson & Johnson has made a commitment to global public health.
  • Unilever’s Project Shakti in rural India has empowered female entrepreneurs and upended traditional, ineffective approaches to distribution.

    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:

  • Compliance and risk reduction: Sometimes CSR efforts can reduce the risks that might face an organization or industry in the future. For example, companies may take early steps to limit energy usage knowing that legislation will take effect in the future.
  • Competitive advantage: CSR efforts can play a significant part in an organization’s differentiation strategy, especially in industries where products and services are either generic or interchangeable.
  • Reputation and public relations: Clients and customers might feel more loyal toward, and willing to spend their money with, organizations known for charitable giving and works. According to a study by the Reputation Institute, willingness to buy from or work for an organization is based 60 percent on reputation, and only 40 percent on what the organization does or sells.

    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.

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