March 8, 2024 | New Workplace Leadership | 5 min read

Starbucks ensures that 99 percent of its coffee supply chain is ethically sourced. Ben & Jerry’s supports grassroots movements that drive social change. Tom’s of Maine invented the first recyclable toothpaste tube.

Global organizations are making an impact by making a commitment to social responsibility and sustainability. In fact, the term “corporate social responsibility (CSR)” has gained popularity in recent years to describe how organizations demonstrate accountability to all aspects of society – including their economic, social, and environmental efforts.

Of course, CSR accountability initiatives look different to different organizations. They range from consideration of how many – and what types of – jobs you are making available to the extent your organization gets involved with social issues like climate change, racial inequity, hunger, poverty, or homelessness. And a multitude of issues in between.

While a recent study mentioned that 90% of the world’s largest companies are now producing CSR accountability reports to quantify these efforts, there is no one way that this is being done. That means we have a lot to learn from each other.

The Skillsoft team recently surveyed more than 1,000 people across various industries, geographies, and job roles to learn how they believe the organizations they work for are impacting society with their CSR accountability efforts, big and small. Take a look at what we learned.


Perhaps one of the most interesting things we learned through our CSR survey is that only 54% of organizations have a CSR accountability plan in place for the upcoming year. More than half of these organizations are private companies.

CSR priorities – for those who plan to pursue CSR initiatives – include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts (31%), improving labor policies (26%), and participating in fair trade (25%). Yet, the ways that these organizations are executing and measuring their CSR accountability efforts are diverse.

So much so that you may feel like there are more questions than answers with respect to CSR. Here are some of the questions our survey respondents helped to clarify:

Where Do Your CSR Efforts Live?

The majority of companies (75%) consider CSR accountability efforts to be a part of their corporate governance program.

Who Owns CSR Accountability At Your Organization?

Executive leadership teams tend to manage CSR programs (20%), followed by HR (16%) and operations (12%). Philanthropy (5%) and investor relations (8%) are not responsible for CSR programs as often as other groups.

How Do You Gauge CSR Success?

Despite differences in CSR priorities by geographical region, survey respondents were aligned on the factor that primarily influences their CSR priorities: 40% say it is a commitment to “doing the right thing.”

But what does it really mean to do the right thing? In speaking with our clients, the Skillsoft team has learned that this means something different to everyone. So, it becomes your organization’s role to define “the right thing” for its employees through a comprehensive Global Code of Conduct that articulates who it is, what it believes, and how it conducts business.

In fact, 42% of our survey respondents said that offering training opportunities is the best way to engage employees in CSR accountability efforts.

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The Difference Between CSR And ESG

Many companies have only recently established CSR programs, yet they now face expectations to have measurable Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments and related reporting. How do CSR and ESG initiatives compare, and can they coexist – especially when 54% of our survey respondents use “CSR” and “ESG” interchangeably?

Our data addresses the crucial questions that boards, CXOs, and environmental and social leaders are grappling with to meet the changing expectations of stakeholders, including:

  • Who really owns an organization's ESG efforts?
  • How do you create a sustainable program around ESG initiatives?
  • How can we report on ESG?

While 54% of survey respondents reported having a CSR accountability plan for the coming year, 46% said their ESG efforts are replacing their CSR efforts. In fact, 74% of survey respondents reported having an ESG program in place.

Should Training Be a Part Of CSR And ESG Efforts?

According to 42% of survey respondents, one opportunity for improving CSR and ESG efforts and buy-in is to offer training to employees. Companies that create cultures of learning and talent development not only support individual employee growth, but also see better business outcomes that propel the organization forward.

At Skillsoft, we’ve also seen organizations including learning metrics as an input into their overall CSR and ESG reporting. Here are some recent examples that were included in corporate sustainability reports:

  • Altus Group reported that nearly 85% of employees accessed Skillsoft in 2021. The most-viewed content included mandatory compliance training, as well as courses on enhancing productivity tools during remote work and improving communication skills to support role and career development.
  • American Airlines mentioned partnering with Skillsoft Percipio to enable team members to further their skills.
  • Berkley added over 8,000 courses from Skillsoft to its online training and virtual classrooms to create certification paths for employees.
  • BWX Technologies shared that 21% of its employees use Skillsoft Percipio’s e-learning tools, and that the organization has seen a 27% increase in Percipio users in 2021.
  • Manpower Group wrote: “During COVID-19 shutdowns, we ensured that furloughed staff and associates could continue to benefit from free access to online training so they could build their skills and enhance their employability as we emerge from the crisis.” They were able to do this through their relationship with Skillsoft.

While it is clear that offering opportunities for learning and training are good ways to enhance your sustainability efforts, many organizations are still in the early stages of developing a formalized program for measuring and reporting on success.

At the end of the day, CSR and ESG extend beyond coffee, ice cream, and toothpaste. And while every organization approaches CSR and ESG differently, what we have in common is the desire to do the right thing when we can, how we can.