What’s the Future of CSR?

March 29, 2023 | What's Hot | 5 min read

People are talking about the future of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Optimists believe that CSR will fundamentally change the role that companies play in society – making “doing good” a corporate norm. Pessimists argue that CSR efforts will stagnate and fail to move beyond their current baseline.

No matter where your organization stands on the topic, it’s likely that CSR is on your radar in some capacity. And while no one can truly predict what the future of CSR holds, it is safe to assume that your organization will incorporate some aspects of corporate social responsibility into its ethos.

But, how?

Four Ways to Future-Proof Your CSR Efforts

Skillsoft’s recently released 2022 Lean Into Learning Report includes a piece about how organizations are currently making an impact with their corporate social responsibility efforts. Much of the data is based on our Corporate Social Responsibility at Work report, which provides an in-depth look at more than 1,000 survey responses from people across various industries, geographies, and job roles.

One of the major takeaways from the CSR at Work report is that CSR efforts continue to evolve. There is no “right” way to approach CSR, but there are some ways to ensure that your CSR program is successful.

Here are four ways to future-proof your CSR efforts:

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. In fact, when done correctly, learning is the most utilized and most effective control that your organization has at its disposal.

Learning ensures that your team is equipped with the:

  • Technical skills they need to be competitive
  • Business and leadership skills they need to respond to new and unexpected challenges
  • Compliance and ethics training they need to stay safe and support your company’s mission

In fact, 42 percent of professionals who responded to our CSR survey shared that offering training opportunities is the best way to engage employees in corporate sustainability efforts. Your team wants to know how they can help make your company – and the world – a better place to be. Teach them how.

Invest in long-term plans, not short-term campaigns.

For CSR initiatives to be successful, they must incorporate a one, three, and five-year plan or there will never be any real progress. The average corporate executive’s tenure is about 4.9 years. Yet, our research found that the c-suite typically manages CSR priorities.

Unless an actionable long-term plan is in place, it is incredibly difficult for organizations to gain CSR momentum when faced with changing leadership and competing priorities. A long-term plan makes it easy for new team members to come into your organization and pick up where their predecessors left off.

Forget money. Commit time and people.

Believe it or not, donating money is one of the easiest ways to “give back” when it comes to corporate sustainability efforts. It is exponentially more difficult to find people within your organization who are willing to commit their time and energy to your CSR initiatives.

On the flip side, when your team does volunteer to participate, it goes a long way in inspiring others to do the same – it gives them a sense of purpose and a connection to the mission and each other. Consider offering incentives for employee participation and make it a point to recognize achievements. Employees want to “do good” and they want to work for an organization that feels the same. Align your purpose to theirs and encourage the reverse.

Break CSR silos and integrate throughout all departments.

A few months ago, my colleague Norm Ford, VP, Skillsoft Compliance, wrote a post about minimizing compliance risk by eliminating silos. Here, he talked about the problem with silos . . . how they “prevent collaboration, leaving an organization unable to see all of its risks from a high level.”

He said: “When we talk about breaking down compliance silos, we're talking about more than just bringing together the leaders of formerly separate compliance functions. That's an essential part of the process, of course.

“But, to create and implement compliance policies and procedures that holistically address risk across the organization, HR, IT, and compliance leaders must collaborate closely. But the most effective way to break down silos is to make compliance everyone's job — from front-line employees to top executives.”

This is spot-on, and good advice for your organization’s CSR program as well.

To avoid CSR silos, your organization needs to establish its CSR priorities and communicate them to every employee. It should be the responsibility of your entire team to promote, engage in, and reinforce your CSR priorities. From there, work with your team to better understand what skills they utilize in their current roles, and how these may be translated into ongoing CSR initiatives.

Check out this conversation I had with Gwen Lee, Chief Compliance Officer at Cordant Health, and Pooja Knight, AVP of Enterprise Risk Management and Climate Change Initiatives at Gallagher. Both Gwen and Pooja talk about learning about CSR and ESG on the job.

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Organizations’ CSR efforts are changing rapidly. Right now, there’s an appetite for businesses to make the world a better place. And as Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) efforts continue to become more standardized and reporting becomes a requirement, it is likely that organizations’ efforts will further evolve.

Put into place a strong foundation. Then, ensure that your organization keeps pace with industry standards by being flexible and committing to learning as you go.