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The Big Deal About Corporate Social Responsibility

With all the hustle and bustle of the world, it is all too often that we forget the driving human lifeforce that exists in all of us: Helping one another and making an impact on someone else’s life. Why shouldn’t that apply to the business world too? As a social impact director, my job is to ensure that my organization is giving back to the community around us in meaningful and impactful ways.

Corporate social responsibility is a hot topic today and one that impacts everyone—from your corner bodega to Fortune 50 companies. Everyone is impacted. I’m not just referring to the direct impact on the companies that you’re donating to or the tax benefits that you’ll experience (though those are nice too.) Corporate social responsibility can have positive impacts on your business in ways that aren’t a tax write-off or simply feeling good.

In this blog, I’ll cover the “big deal” about corporate social responsibility and its massive impact for your business.

Corporate Social Responsibility Defined

Before we dive too deep, let’s talk about what corporate social responsibility really is—and what it’s not. Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is defined as how a company integrates their economic, environmental, and social objectives with the goal of addressing stakeholder expectations to sustain or enhance shareholder value. To make it even more simple, CSR is what a company does to assess and take responsibility for their effects on the environment and community.

Corporate social responsibility is not ignoring your impact on the environment or community to then make a large donation to an organization to “clean up the mess.” It is not continuing discriminatory hiring practices and donating to a diverse organization. These practices are dishonest CSR, and they will ultimately prevent your business from progressing.

Here are four ways (of many) that CSR can positively impact your company:

1. Increase Employee Retention

I’m sure everyone has experienced a bad job in their career. You get up in the morning and you REALLY don’t want to be there. You hate the coffee, the smell, the people, everything about it. How proud were you to work there? Did you even tell anyone where you worked, or did you try to skirt the subject? Chances are, you felt zero pride in your work.

Now imagine a company that values you, understands that you have a family who needs you, and that you have a life outside of making them money. Imagine a firm that creates a diverse work environment where you feel not only that your voice matters but also that you bring value beyond your impact to the bottom line.

I imagine you’d feel differently about going to work every day to a company like that. Corporate social responsibility can infuse employees with a sense of accomplishment and pride, improving retention. When you’re doing good beyond selling products and driving revenue, the motivation to go to work every day is a no-brainer.

2. Manage Your Reputation

Companies who take CSR seriously as an opportunity to build their reputation experience improved brand image, trust and credibility within the community. It’s important to be both consistent and persistent in your CSR efforts. (This isn’t a one-and-done reputation fix!). Be persistent in your pursuit of creating a better world.

If your company doesn’t have a lot of direct exposure to customers, this doesn’t mean that you can’t reap the benefits of CSR. Responsible supply chain partnerships are part of a sound CSR strategy, and critical in securing new business. Plus, there is no hiding in the digital age so don’t even try! Instead, create honest and transparent practices that you won’t have to shield from public view.

3. Be on the Cutting Edge of Innovation

CSR is not just about avoiding potential pitfalls. It’s about seizing new opportunities. Not only can you garner new product ideas and deeper insight into your customer’s wants and needs, you can uncover robust new opportunities through innovation. Reporting on your CSR efforts gives you a chance to increase your engagement with customers and dive deeper into what motivates them to brand loyalty. Opportunity exists at every corner.

What’s more, change is truly the only constant. By having your ear to the ground through corporate social responsibility, you’re in a better position to understand and anticipate change. Whether it is changes to environmental regulations, understanding social movements and their purpose, or knowing your exact economic impact, being an informed member of your community will provide you with deep insights into what’s coming in the future.

4. Embrace Change and Make it Work for You

Whitney Houston said it best: I believe the children are the future.

If you’re in an industry where innovation is constant (that’s every industry, nowadays) creating further opportunities for innovation through funding education is imperative. By investing in education through CSR, companies can ensure a bright future not only for themselves but for future generations.

Currently, 78% of high school graduates fall below the benchmark readiness for one or more college course in math, science, reading, or English. Furthermore, STEM jobs are growing at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs between 2000 and 2010. Minorities are deeply underrepresented in STEM fields—just 2.2% of Latinos, 2.7% of African Americans, and 3.3% of Native Americans and Alaska Natives have earned a university degree in STEM fields. This presents a massive opportunity for organizations to help these underserved portions of the population through CSR efforts focused on STEM education.

CSR Opportunities at Marketo

Perhaps the most important part of corporate social responsibility is that the opportunity to create direct and powerful impact exists everywhere you look.

During our annual Marketing Nation Summit this week, we launched our Students at Summit program. Through the Marketo Innovative Academy and our continued partnership with the non-profit organization  , the Students at Summit program sponsors first-generation college students studying marketing and business to attend our annual Marketing Nation Summit. By attending, students gained valuable knowledge, insight, and networking opportunities that can propel them into their careers while providing direct access to Marketo employees, customers, and partners. With the Marketo Innovative Academy, our goal is to expose 10,000 youth to STEM by 2020.  As such, since 2016, our student engagement numbers have doubled.

It doesn’t stop there. During Summit, our volunteers and partners also created sensory kits for youth living with autism for the Autism Society of Colorado and partnered with G2Crowd to give a sizeable donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank. During our registration process, we offered a special registration code where a portion of the proceeds from tickets purchased went to the Peninsula Humane Society.

There are plenty of opportunities to give back, but it is up to you to make it happen in your organization.

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