CSR Terminology: What Language Are You Speaking?

Elizabeth Liberman January 26, 2016 Employee Engagement

Last summer I shared an article online about some of the amazing things happening at YourCause and tagged it with #CSR. Having been “in the industry” for a whopping six months at the time, CSR in my mind naturally meant Corporate Social Responsibility. However, some not familiar with this concept thought I was referencing Customer Service. The jargon and abbreviations in any industry can be quite specific, and often we don’t realize that we may be using the same words but speaking a different language.

That got me thinking about other phrases used by CSR professionals on a daily basis and what they really mean in our day-to-day communication. While there are many terms specific to the CSR industry, the three that I currently hear about the most often are impact, engagement, and sustainability.



One of the hottest buzzwords in CSR today is impact. Companies–and the employees participating–want to know what impact their programs are making, which means they are looking at how to measure their employee impact. How do you report on the effect of 4 hours spent at the food bank or what $25.00 donated to the animal shelter really means? There are so many variables in these situations that there hasn’t been an industry standard of how to measure impact up to this point. The good news is that the creation of the United Nation’s business-lead IMPACT 2030 initiative is helping to shed light on measuring and reporting the impact of giving and volunteering programs. Defining what impact actually means and how to measure it will be a hot topic in the coming year.

Nonprofits are even aligning their focus to report on the impact that their efforts are having on the world.



Another idea frequently discussed in the CSR world is engagement. Programs will only thrive if stakeholders engage their employees and really drive up participation. Engaging employees doesn’t just mean filling a volunteer spot or getting that dollar contribution – it’s about getting employees excited about joining in and supporting the programs offered to them. Employees that are engaged will not only participate and donate more, but will also spread the message of the program and inspire others to join in as well!  These employees are more connected to the company’s broader goals and feel united with their fellow co-workers, which in turn builds a stronger company as well as a thriving CSR program.



In tandem with standard giving and volunteering programs, many employers are now encouraging employees to increase their impact by tracking sustainability. Being aware of what makes their company and community at large sustainable allows employees to take action to shrink their environmental footprint. Tracking personal and companywide reduction of emissions, waste, water, and energy makes impact visible. And that visibility stimulates continued participation in sustainable actions.



CSR professionals know there are many more words and concepts flourishing within the space, but these were a few that have really stood out to me in my day-to-day interactions. I know that measuring impact and really being able to see what good is coming from your actions, engaging fellow co-workers while encouraging others to “do good”, and making everyday life and business sustainable for the long run are ideas that motivate me to come to work each day. While it may be a different language than others are used to seeing in their social media feed, using this language opens the door for more conversation and spreading the message that corporate social responsibility is happening every day.