Responsibility is the Price of Greatness in CSR

16 November 2023 | Leadership at Work | 6 min read

You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It’s the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” - Vernon Jordan

How does your organization shoulder the responsibility of helping others?

For Skillsoft, helping the world around us is a central part of being a responsible business. Beyond turning a profit, responsible businesses require inspirational leadership, committed employees, invested stakeholders, and most importantly, a strong sense of purpose.

Business priorities are different today than they were 30 years ago. While profitability is critical, organizations are also concerned about doing good for their customers, employees, and the rest of the world. We’re Living — and working — in an era of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

To get to the bottom of this shift in corporate priorities, we need to look more closely at what — and who — is driving CSR efforts around the world. That’s why we’re publishing Skillsoft’s second-annual Corporate Social Responsibility at Work Report. The report is the result of surveying nearly 1,000 professionals from both public and private companies and across various industries, geographies, and job roles. It provides us with crucial information about how organizations are approaching CSR right now.

CSR: From Nice-To-Have to Necessary

Of all the people we surveyed, 62% of respondents said they believe that organizations should take a stand on social and political issues, which is a fundamental component of CSR. But, compared to last year, where “doing the right thing” was a top driver of corporate CSR programs and initiatives (40%), organizations in 2023 report that they are increasingly taking cues from customer feedback, public perception, and government mandates (50%).

Put another way, CSR used to be about altruism. But based on responses from this year’s survey, organizations are beginning to see their CSR programs as a binding commitment to fulfill obligations to various stakeholders.

Perhaps that’s one reason that 55% of respondents reported that their CSR budgets increased since last year, and that CSR efforts are increasingly being driven by their organization’s C-suite. As regulations become more complex, organizations are compelled to allocate more resources to them — both in the form of money and strategic direction.

The C-suite's involvement in a company's CSR program is vital for ensuring that CSR is integrated into the company's culture, strategy, and operations. This involvement sends a strong signal to internal and external stakeholders about the company's commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices.


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CSR Is Here to Stay, but Know Your “Why”

For many, the reasons why organizations participate in CSR are not as important as their participation in the first place. After all, CSR benefits business in many ways, including:

  • Increased brand recognition
  • Better relationships with customers and employees
  • Improved morale and customer loyalty

And more importantly, CSR impacts society at large by providing a channel for positive social and environmental impact. However, understanding your organization’s “why” is crucial to the long-term success of your CSR program, and here are some compelling reasons:

Authenticity and Credibility: Stakeholders, including customers, employees, and investors, are more likely to view your organization’s actions as sincere and authentic when they are — in fact — sincere and authentic.

Ethical Considerations: A strong ethical foundation is a fundamental aspect of responsible corporate behavior and can lead to more meaningful and enduring contributions to society.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Companies that engage in CSR solely to meet legal obligations may not go beyond the minimum requirements and may not have the same positive impact as those with deeper motivations.

Sustainability: Companies that engage in CSR initiatives driven by a commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices are more likely to integrate CSR into their long-term strategies.

Sustainability and a Long-Term Commitment to CSR Initiatives

Organizations driven by a sense of purpose and commitment to CSR are more likely to invest in initiatives that have a lasting impact on the environment, society, and local communities. This long-term perspective is crucial for addressing complex social and environmental challenges — and it provides a solid foundation for change.

In fact, according to our survey respondents, the top indicator for a successful CSR program was an investment in long-term plans (35%), including training and education programs.

A long-term commitment to CSR initiatives is vital for companies to build trust, make positive impacts, manage risks, and remain competitive in a changing business environment. It goes beyond short-term public relations efforts and demonstrates a genuine dedication to responsible and sustainable business practices, which can yield numerous benefits over time.

But, many organizations still tread the line between meaningful action and using CSR as a PR tool. This is called “greenwashing” and has led to calls for greater transparency and accountability in CSR.

So, how can you make sure that your organization is committing to making change — and following through with the commitment?

Rather than treating sustainability and social and political justice as add-ons, companies need to integrate them into their core business strategies. This requires a cultural shift towards responsible and ethical decision-making, and a willingness to address complex global issues. Only then can corporate responsibility practices truly drive meaningful change and create a positive impact for all stakeholders.

What Are Organizations Doing to Engage Employees in CSR Initiatives?

The potential for CSR to drive positive change in the world remains significant, but every company must make sure they approach their goals with transparency, sincerity, and commitment.

When asked, “How does your organization plan to address issues related to CSR?” the top three survey responses were:

  1. Invest in long-term plans, not short-term campaigns (34.8%)
    • If organizations want to make a significant impact, they need to have long-term goals. It’s not just about profit or one-off programs. Sustainability is key.
  2. Commit time and people resources, not just money (32.4%)
    • Employees want to feel that they are making a difference. Incentives and recognition go a long way toward creating value.
  3. Create authentic connections and partnerships (20.3%)
    • An organization’s CSR efforts won’t be effective if you don’t “walk the walk” and partner with others who share a similar mindset.

As successful as your CSR program might be, there’s always room for reflection and improvement. That’s why it’s important to check in with company leaders and employees to see how resources can best be utilized throughout the organization, ensuring a program that is effective and accessible.

The Future of CSR

The responses we received from our survey provide valuable insight into what the CSR landscape looks like today, and how it may continue to evolve in the future.

And, the good news is that CSR is here to stay.

As more and more business leaders recognize the impact that CSR can have, and more and more employees become invested in contributing to a better world, clearly there are many benefits to adopting CSR initiatives and implementing them.

As Vernon Jordan said, “We live forever through what we give,” so let’s stand shoulder to shoulder and commit to effecting lasting change today.