Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs Are Powerful Recruiting & Retention Tools

It’s ironic, but one of the best ways companies can be more successful is by giving more of their profits away. Turns out, everyone—clients, suppliers and especially employees—loves a good corporate citizen. In fact, such programs may be among the most compelling recruiting and retention tools at HR’s disposal.  

That’s one reason why so many businesses are focused on enhancing their sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives this year—which, for many, remains a work in progress.    

To that end, let’s review the potential impact of such programs on your hiring and retention efforts, as well as some basic ways to optimize your efforts.

Recruiting, Retention and the Role of CSR     

Research shows that today’s employees seek meaning and purpose at work. Not surprisingly, they are increasingly drawn to employers that exhibit a greater social/environmental purpose beyond the bottom line.
According to the Bentley-Gallup Force for Good Study, 55% of workers say they’d leave their current job in order to work at a company that’s committed to making a positive impact. That percentage is even higher (71%!) for workers under the age of 30—so, if your long-term HR strategy includes building a younger workforce, take notice. 

And when asked what they seek in an ideal employer, survey respondents ranked making the world a better place right behind fair wages, a positive company culture and quality health insurance.

Similarly, people want to work for sustainable employers. According to a recent IBM study, 68% of jobseekers say that they’re more likely to apply for and accept jobs from environmentally responsible companies. Forty-eight percent say they’d even accept a lower salary.

And no, it’s not merely talk. Case in point: according to Deloitte, purpose-driven employers enjoy 40% higher retention rates than others. In another study, two out of five Gen Z and Millennial workers report turning down jobs because the employers’ values were inconsistent with their own.

These issues matter to workers, and proactive employers are responding accordingly.

5 Ways to Build a Sustainability Program 

When it comes to sustainability, even modest improvements add up. If you don’t already have a corporate sustainability policy, the first step is to create one. Among other things, your sustainability policy might include: 

  • Forming an employee-powered sustainability team to brainstorm and implement ideas for making the company less wasteful and more environmentally responsible. 
  • Offering eco-friendly benefits, such as stipends for employees who commute by public transportation or purchase electric vehicles.
  • Expanding your remote and hybrid work options to reduce commuter emissions as well as your carbon footprint.
  • Greening your workplace by reducing waste, banning single-use plastic products and improving energy efficiency, while ramping up recycling. 
  • Making sure that you’re purchasing supplies and materials from environmentally responsible sources, and making this a requirement for preferred suppliers.  

5 Ways to Enhance Your CSR Program

According to experts, the most compelling CSR programs are closely aligned with each company’s individual core values and are built on specific, measurable goals. In order to make your CSR strategy more meaningful, you might consider: 

  • Inviting employees to help direct and define your company’s charitable endeavors, via surveys, committees and project-specific work groups. 
  • Sponsoring paid volunteer days that allow employees to support their personal causes as well as corporate-wide volunteer days.
  • Collaborating with local not-for-profits and community groups to identify and support worthwhile projects.
  • Tracking the cost and effectiveness of your various CSR initiatives, using data-based metrics as much as possible. 
  • Treating your CSR program as a long-term commitment, not a seasonal effort or short-term PR campaign. In that vein, be ready to make ongoing adjustments as needed to continuously improve your program.


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Make Employees Your CSR Partners

Chances are, some of your employees are already quite passionate and knowledgeable about environmental issues and social programs, both local and global. Inviting them to play a key role in shaping your corporate giving and sustainability efforts will power them with authenticity and enthusiasm, while motivating your people.

In fact, studies show that the more employees volunteer for charitable causes—even on their own time—the more motivated and productive they are at work. Engagement is contagious. 

At the end of the day, vibrant corporate sustainability and responsibility programs benefit everyone: corporations, communities, customers and more. And, because employees want to work for companies that are making a difference, CSR programs are wildly powerful recruiting and retention tools, too.  

Human Resources Today