CSR with a Side of Collaboration

Zoe Helstrom July 7, 2016 Employee Engagement

We welcome guest author Zoe Helstrom, the CSR Associate at Universal Giving, to share insights on CSR collaboration, and what we can do to form a stronger community. Follow other great topics at Universal Giving’s blog: Philanthropost


It’s no secret that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming increasingly important to employees and consumers, and in turn more essential to businesses’ performance and success rates (see stats here, here, and here). Many new, fast-growth companies (as well as some industry behemoths) are learning from these trends and observations. They are responding by integrating CSR into their business models, operations, and core competencies, while also affirming and delivering on the idea that business has a responsibility to the communities it affects. If you’re still not convinced, just search “tech company CSR” to see what I’m talking about.

But why do companies have to endeavor to deliver effective and impactful CSR programs on their own? Could a community of businesses – we’ll call it a “b-community” – seeking to serve and benefit communities of workers, suppliers, or consumerswork together to create deeper results and more engaging programs?


How a B-Community Would Work

What would this sort of b-community look like, and how would it go about building its cross-corporation CSR initiatives? For starters, community members could be pulled from the same industry (think beverage, home furnishings, automotive, healthcare), share similar values and objectives, or even be headquartered in neighboring geographical areas.

On a preliminary partnership level, companies can focus on building the foundation of a strong relationship through truth, support, and guidance (important factors in any working relationship, I think!). Sharing best practices across various types of initiatives would allow members to see, and learn from, which approaches work best in a particular industry, region, or among certain employees. For example, engagement tactics could be drawn from other successful employee-focused volunteering and giving programs, or operational efficiency efforts (e.g. sustainable production or employee health and safety) could be modeled after a certain initiative that made impressive waves at a similar company.


The Technology LeaderCollaboration

From this foundation of cooperation and commitment, b-communities could then follow “CSR how-to’s” used by individual companies to establish a “communal” portfolio of CSR programs and initiatives. Tech giants in California’s Bay Area have already come together to serve as an example of this type of collaboration through SF Gives, a coalition of 23 companies that are working together in order to address poverty in the region. Members meet in order to share best practices and take action as a community, for the community.

While SF Gives represents one of the first ways that companies have joined together to achieve a CSR vision in line with their values, it should not be the last. B-communities can form around the world to promote initiatives championed by employees, while keeping in mind the importance of integrating CSR efforts into core competencies, having top-level support, working with employees to define key areas of focus, and gauging results.


A Sustainable Impact

These b-community-sponsored programs have the potential to make a resounding impact on the causes they care about, and can also hold businesses responsible for delivering on promised effects–leading to a similar mentality of being a teammate. They can also be a way that new socially and environmentally-minded companies can make a difference from the get-go by joining forces with a more-established organization.

It is inspiring to read about a company’s success in its matched giving program, the effectiveness of an in-kind donation project, or employees’ satisfaction in making an impact through a volunteering initiative offered by their employer. But companies of shared background, industry, values, or geographical region (among other traits) have the opportunity to make a difference on an even grander and potentially more meaningful scale by working together. As stated by Terry Tempest Williams, author and naturalist, “Imaginations shared create collaboration, collaboration creates community, and community inspires social change.” It’s time for companies to collaborate on CSR and inspire the social and environmental change that they have a responsibility to deliver and uphold. So, let’s get to it, team!