Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  Is it really beneficial for a business?

Over the past twenty five years, I have had an increasing involvement in CSR, from my early days of using the companies work with charities to help build the brand reputation, to more recent times working with businesses to establish a CSR framework within the organisation. These frameworks allow the business to meet its ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) reporting requirements, often required by investors and more recently, by legislation. But when talking to small and mid sized businesses, the first question asked is “what are the benefits”.

Marketing is often seen as a cost and not an investment, wrongly, and in the same way, CSR is also frequently seen in the same way. However, there is evidence that a CSR framework is not just a cost, but an essential part of business and recently there have been a number of articles that highlight the reasons why this is the case.

The first one by the BBC highlights the fact that a growing number of people are either quitting roles with businesses that do not have environmental objectives, or not applying or joining these companies if they do not match the person’s values. The BBC quote Paul Polman, climate campaigner and former CEO of Unilever and the author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take, says climate quitting is more prevalent today because the crises we’re facing are “existential”.

Paul is quoted “We’re literally talking about the future of humanity,” He is credited with significantly improving Unilever’s climate action, adds that workers today are far more climate-aware than in the past. “People are realising that a few good business initiatives and a sprinkling of corporate social responsibility (CSR) aren’t going to cut it. We need businesses who thrive by fixing the world’s problems, instead of creating them.”

The quotes are driven by a survey run by Polman in 2023. The survey of 4,000 employees across the UK and US showed two-thirds of employees were anxious about the environment and wanted their companies to take a stronger stance on it, and half were willing to quit over a mismatch of ethics. The results are a mark of “how deeply people now feel about the crises”, he says. “People of every age, but especially millennials and Gen Z, want to give their time and talent to the companies which share their values and are contributing to a more hopeful future.”

The second article that grabbed my attention was a report on that details how Employee Owned Businesses (EOB) are more likely to embrace CSR as a key part of the business and that by doing so, the business becomes more productive and drives sales. Some of the key facts from the report state:

In October 2023, we can celebrate a thriving sector of over 1,650 businesses who are driven to succeed every day by a powerful combination of sharing meaningful ownership and participation with employees and workers. 

  • EOBs are also considerably more likely to make charitable donations than non-EOBs (86% vs 55%). EOBs in aggregate give over £500m more per year than non-EOBs.
  • EOB’s, regardless of their size, are more likely to have a Net-Zero or carbon management strategy in place (54%) than non-EOB’s (30%)

Read the full report here and find out why EOB’s have such an important role to play in our society.

These two reports are just the start and I fully expect to see more information coming to light in the next couple of years.

There are many benefits to a business of implementing a CSR strategy including:

  • Building your brand profile
  • Increase sales and improve chances of winning tender opportunities
  • Increased staff retention
  • Easier staff recruitment
  • Increase your productivity
  • Increase the chance of securing investment through better ESG reporting

A CSR framework takes time to develop and implement and needs to include all your staff to get the maximum benefit and return on investment. To find out how to achieve this, get in touch or call: 07900 580407.

EWO are a leading marketing and ESG consultants covering the Thames Valley including Bucks, Berks and Oxon.