Can Business Save the World? The CSR Benefits

Superman-TeamIf you’ve been following my current series of posts about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), you know I’m ready to share some of the benefits of engaging in CSR. These findings are from a survey of 142 business people representing a diverse range of industries: manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, extractive minerals, financial services, media, telecommunications and others. All were managers who attended Harvard Business School’s CSR executive education program sometime during the past four years. A surprising 60 percent said they were “dissatisfied with their firms’ CSR activities and wanted to improve them.”

The research team divided the responses into three categories, based on how each respondent’s company CSR programs were organized:

  • Philanthropy = 48 percent of respondents
  • Operational Improvements = 39 percent
  • Business-model Transformation = 13 percent

Those who fell into the purely philanthropic category rated the benefits as follows:

  • Improves company’s social standing (84 percent)
  • Supports company’s philanthropic priorities (77 percent)
  • Increases employee motivation (67 percent)
  • Increases revenue (13 percent), with 41 percent citing increased costs

Among the managers whose companies’ focused CSR on making operational improvements, the benefits were identified as:

  • Improves company’s social standing (94 percent)
  • Improves company’s environmental impact (62 percent)
  • Protects resources on which company depends (58 percent)
  • Increases revenue (32 percent), with 35 percent citing increased costs and 32 percent citing increased costs

And among the 13 percent of respondents representing the “radical fringe” defined by “Business-Model Transformation” CSR programs, the following benefits were reported:

  • Creates an important solution to a social/environmental program (89 percent)
  • Promises long-term gains (82 percent)
  • Addresses senior management’s social/environmental mission (82 percent)
  • Increases revenue (31 percent)
  • Reduces costs (35 percent), with 36 percent citing increased costs

While we started our foundation and volunteerism activities for altruistic reasons, there are benefits any firm can receive through philanthropy:

  • Position and branding in the market place. Think of a friend who’s a “taker” versus one that’s a “giver”… which one do you hold in higher esteem?
  • Recruiting. Most people, and especially millennials, want a multi-dimensional life and that includes where and how they work.
  • Engagement.  Volunteering outside of work gives us time to get to know one another in a non-work setting and build understanding and camaraderie.
  • Perspective.  I remember having a tough day at work, which was followed by going to volunteer at our local Ronald McDonald House.  Within minutes, I was reminded that my “problem” was really a nuisance.
  • Strengthens our industry.  With our STEM scholarship, Intertech is helping build tomorrow’s technical talent pool.  For more on our STEM scholarship and the 2015 recipient, see my final post in this series.