Public Displays of Responsibility: Your CSR is Showing

Katie Dunlap April 10, 2018 Employee Engagement

Let’s face it, getting employees excited about corporate citizenship can be tough! For the average employee, CSR is out of sight and out of mind until there is a large initiative or event that pushes

New Call-to-actioneveryone to get involved. Your push for higher engagement in the workforce needs more than just a catchphrase – it’s going to require showcasing your CSR strategies and investments in visual ways that will amplify employee engagement and understanding of the CSR strategy at your company. Brian Lakamp at Totem refers to this phenomenon as “Public Displays of Responsibility ” or PDR. PDR is about executing a strong CSR strategy, growing employee awareness, and gaining employee understanding of that strategy in highly visible ways.

This begs the question; How do we create an ongoing CSR messaging strategy even busy employees notice during a hectic schedule?  

In this post, I’ll be outlining a few examples of how PDR can help show off CSR in areas like giving, volunteering, and sustainability:


PDR: Giving


Create tangible examples for your giving campaign in the form of a goal tracker – sort of like a new-school fundraising thermometer. Are you saving the forests? Build a tree out of cardboard slowly in the office common area that grows as your fundraising goal is reached. Giving away 100 boxes of diapers? Stack 100 empty diaper boxes in a public area with information about the nonprofit partner.


YourCause Team Members wearing noses to help acknowledge and celebrate Red Nose Day.


Another way to practice PDR is to have regular, real, and important celebrations. PDR doesn’t have to be a physical item installed in the office – it can also be a shift in culture. Creating genuine and visible celebrations when fundraising goals are reached help everyone to feel included, successful, and appreciated.

Have the conversation about CSR on a new hire’s first day. Talk about the importance of philanthropy in your company’s culture and offer new employees the chance to participate that day by making a gift to their favorite charity. At YourCause, we recommend using Cause Cards for just this purpose!


PDR: Volunteering


What better way to incorporate some public displays of volunteering into your workforce than bringing volunteering into the office? This can be as simple as setting up nonprofit information stations. Work with NPO partners to visit the office, bring information, and help set up volunteering opportunities for your employees.

A tried and true method is to have a volunteering event on-site. This is a very low-touch way to get employees involved. You can even allow employees to volunteer on their own time by leaving projects like assembly kits and packed lunches in an open conference. Employees can also use the office as a place to meet and leave from a public area to complete a meal delivery project.  


YourCause Team Members take time out of their workday to pack lunches during a volunteer event.


Most of us understand the inherent benefit we can expect from skills-based volunteering, but taking the step to find that opportunity can be difficult or time-consuming. Linking professional development programs to skills-based volunteering is a great way to encourage employees to seek out those opportunities. Recognizing employees that serve on NPO Boards will also help to reinforce volunteerism in the office.

A physical representation is a fun and poignant way to visually reinforce your company’s volunteer project. If you’re all volunteering next week for Habitat then order mini houses to sit on each person’s desk that is participating. Have them assemble the mini house and decorate it however they’d like to build excitement.

Each year companies set goals for how many hours their employees will volunteer. Setting a public goal is wonderful, but many also set an internal stretch goal. Create a giant sign or steal a spot on the intranet with a graphic description of your progress. Employees will band together to reach that stretch goal.


PDR: Sustainability


Whether we like it or not, businesses carry a large carbon footprint. It is certainly worth the effort to reduce the impact that each of us has on the environment and encourage those around us to do the same. Visual examples in the workplace can remind employees that we’re all working toward the same goal of sustainability.

When it comes to recycling, it’s hard to find an office that doesn’t participate. However, most employees would agree they could be doing more to help. Consider these:

  • Host a forum where employees can learn what can and cannot be recycled in your area.
  • Put recycling bins next to every trash can so that employees don’t have an excuse.
  • Make your recycling bins larger than your waste bins.
  • Solar Power –  Converting to solar energy is a visible process. Whether you use tiles on the roof or structures in the parking lot, employees will be aware of the change and know a difference is being made.
  • Electric car recharge stations – Parking lots with reserved spaces for electric vehicle charging encourage employees to purchase efficient vehicles
  • While going “paperless” might not be 100% achievable, the effort alone can make a significant impact on the environment. When company culture shifts and employees find that it is no longer acceptable to print every memo, the paperless process will start quickly. In this case, it isn’t so much about what is seen, but what goes unseen.
  • Encourage employees to ride their own bikes with prominent bike parking out front. If biking culture takes off, it could be worth partnering with a bike share company to feature rentable bikes that employees can grab and ride to lunch!



Public displays of responsibility can be applied in all areas of Corporate Social Responsibility, not just the ones I’ve mentioned in this post. The most important thing to remember about PDR is that it is a visible and tangible display of your specific CSR strategy.

PDR allows corporations to give a quick reminder of CSR to employees as they are planning their schedules. It can even serve as the inspiration to employees who have not yet participated in your CSR strategy. Regardless of if you’re trying to remind busy employees of a volunteer project or engage employees who have not yet gotten involved, PDR is the perfect tool to achieve your goal!


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To learn more about emerging trends in CSR, continue reading the second post in this series over Unauthorized Fundraising.