Author: Carmen Adamson

Companies of all sizes recognize the need to develop strategies that align profit with purpose and build long-term sustainability into their business model. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) follows the belief that in order to have long-term success, companies need to build and maintain successful relationships with a wide range of stakeholders including their partners, consumers, employees, the community they operate in, and their governments.

You don’t have to be a large corporation to make a significant and positive impact on society. Small and medium size businesses can take advantage of the benefits of a social responsibility program. Your company can focus efforts around giving back as employees, consumers and investors are expecting it.

  • 85% of individual investors are interested in sustainable investing *Morgan Stanley
  • 77% of consumers say they are more willing to purchase from a company with ESG and CSR commitments *Blackbaud Institute

CSR for Employee Retention & Recruiting

CSR for employee engagement can be an important part of workplace culture and provide a retention and recruiting tool for Millennials and Generation Z. Millennials are currently America’s largest generation in the workforce according to the Pew Research Center. The 2016 CONE research study showed that 83% of Millennials said they would be more loyal to a company with an established CSR program. The 2019 GEN Z Purpose Study showed that 90% of Gen Z believes companies must act to help social and environmental issues, and that 75% will do the research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on an issue. Furthermore, Great Place to Work published “10 employee engagement Strategies for Small Businesses” – strategy #6 and #10 involve connecting employees to volunteer opportunities and the greater good. Providing opportunities for employees to connect outside of work allows them to get to know each other and can give them a sense purpose that aligns with your mission.1 We have seen lots of research over the years around how social impact initiatives increase employee loyalty.2 There’s no better time to consider implementing a CSR program at your small or medium sized business, considering that economists are calling the post-pandemic world the “Great Resignation”. In April, more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs according to the Department of Labor, breaking a 20-year record.

Now that we have reviewed why companies have CSR and some of the benefits, here are 5 tips to implement a successful CSR program.

Hopefully looking at these steps will help you along your journey.

1. Create a CSR steering committee

If your company doesn’t have a CSR leadership role defined, it’s important for the person spearheading social responsibility at your organization to have a seat at the table whenever topics touch on business strategy and social responsibility. The HR or Communications department may be tasked with managing the program, but ultimately the executive leadership team should play a pivotal role in any decision making to drive support for employee engagement, diversity and inclusion or other CSR initiatives. Learn more about how executive support can drive and maintain a CSR program. Forming a CSR committee with various leaders across departments in your company will provide insight and foster cross departmental success for your program.

2. Define your mission and goals

Start by understanding your why. Our CSR Toolkit suggests questions to ask your executive team and various leaders on your CSR committee to help drive the discussion. It’s good to hear the point of view from all your stakeholder groups. We have another blog post “The Five Things You Need to Know About Defining Your Brand’s Purpose” that can be helpful to think about when understanding your mission. Additionally, our blog post “Mission and Goals: The Foundation for your Program’s Success” has examples of what a goal could look like in your organization and how that goal maps back to the mission.

3. Steal from others

This tip applies to solving any type of business problem because it just means to look for examples and find inspiration from others. Find out what is working for businesses that are the same size or in your same industry. Our latest industry report includes an analysis of employee engagement trends across companies with 0 – 100,000+ employees. The smallest company size considered in the report, 0 – 1,000 employees, had the highest overall giving and volunteering engagement rates. This was the only group that had an increase for all metrics from the 2019 report. We believe this shows that companies large and small are investing in purpose and social responsibility initiatives. One of my favorite blogs that provides a detailed example of a company’s purpose strategy is “Purpose at PIMCO | The power of partnerships and knowing your why”. Amber Skalsky, the vice president of global corporate responsibility at PIMCO, discusses what community engagement means at their organization and how they refreshed their corporate citizenship program to strategically align their employee engagement efforts with three distinct pillars: PIMCO Gives, PIMCO Acts and PIMCO Advocates. Amber says, “These pillars help us engage our clients, develop cross-sector partnerships, maintain focus on impact metrics, and support our PIMCO colleagues while fostering meaningful social change.”

4. Communication is key

Think of how you’re going to communicate and engage all the groups within the company from the new hires to remote workers and tenured executives. Our communication toolkit has a checklist and planning guide for developing a communication strategy to spread your message and increase engagement with your programs. It’s important to leverage multiple communication channels and build relationships within your organization. Consider using data to track and analyze results of digital communication to make decisions.

5. Collaborate on your cause

Involve employees when choosing nonprofit partners or big community projects that your business may want to support every year. Allowing employees to vote on causes they are passionate about can increase their engagement with giving or volunteering to support your cause.

Align your business products and services or employee skill-set with causes. Is there a natural link between the expertise of your business and a volunteering opportunity? Skills-based volunteering or pro-bono work for nonprofits is a great ongoing way to get employees to collaborate with each other to support a cause. Checkout this podcast on the benefits of pro-bono volunteering or this blog post on how virtual skills-based volunteering enables remote employees to donate their time and expertise.


  1. 10 Employee Engagement Strategies for Small Businesses
  2. Corporate Social Responsibility Impact Initiatives Make Employees More Loyal

2021 Industry Review: Small and Medium Business Focus


Comprehensive list of the latest CSR and ESG statistics for building the business case for CSR

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