Common Impact Blog

The CSR Scoop - 5/15/2015

By Molly Weinstein | May 15, 2015

The debate is on! This week, a number of industry thought leaders reflected on today’s shifting business and social landscape and raised a few bold, controversial points. As we move towards integrated corporate social responsibility, are standalone CSR departments passé or are they still indispensable? As the divisions between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors become increasingly ambiguous, is there cause to be wary of too much sector blurring? Read on to learn more about these issues and about other hot topics of the week.

As you skim the scoop, consider adding your voice to the discussion by commenting on our blog. We’d love to hear from you!

The Scoop:


Skills-based volunteering is a model that is accessible and beneficial for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Last week was Small Business Awareness Week, so Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, spotlighted how small businesses across the country are leveraging their talent through skills-based volunteering initiatives that are smart, bold, and accessible. Check out A Billion + Change’s eBook Small Business, Big Purpose: A Guide to Skills-Based Volunteerism to learn more about how skills-based volunteerism can enhance your small business.

 “Most of us had never used a machete before, imagine how much we could get done in one afternoon!” This misalignment of skills and objectives is one of the most frequently critiqued issues with corporate volunteering.

That’s why we absolutely loved Junice Yeo’s article about how companies are working to channel the right resources to the right cause, in order make their employee volunteers worth more than just a typical man-hour.

VolunteerMatch published a quick-read piece about three benefits that come from incorporating volunteer activities into your company culture:

  1. Happier and healthier employees
  2. Stronger teams
  3. Boosted employee satisfaction

The moral of the story? “Start thinking about volunteering as an investment: in yourself, and in your company’s success.

The numbers are striking; Engaged employees give approximately 57% more effort and are 87% less likely to resign. Companies with higher-than-average customer and employee engagement experience a 240% jump in performance-related business outcomes. And companies have read the tea leaves; they are jumping to action and elevating employee engagement and culture to a top business priority. Yet, even after instituting all the right policies and protocols, companies are still seeing stagnant engagement sustained dissatisfaction.

Causecast’s Ryan Scott explores whether the answer to the engagement challenge could be none other than the ever-powerful force of love. In his blog, “Is Love the Answer to the Disengagement Economy,” Scott argues that professional environments flourish when filled with purpose-driven and caring leaders. Injecting a little love, respect, and consideration into leadership teams could produce the engaged, motivated, and satisfied workforce that businesses need to succeed.

It can be hard to reshape individuals’ established leadership styles within the context of their day-to-day work environment and relationships. Thus, skills-based volunteering is a powerful, hands-on tool that takes employees out of their natural habitat to develop leadership qualities such as empathy, collaboration, flexibility and passion.

A strong CSR Program is not a standalone program, but embedded in the company’s mission, vision, values and business strategy. The program should infiltrate every department, and be both top-down and bottom-up. Leaders need to make CSR a core business priority.”

Imaginasium’s April newsletter, Doing Well and Good, explains why today’s transparent and interconnected economy requires  full corporate accountability and comprehensive CSR programming, and cogently highlights the elements of a strong CSR program, such as shared value, a tie-in to business strategy, external and internal communication, and employee and customer buy-in/engagement.

Michael Townsend released the final installment to his three-part series entitled, “CSR is dead.” In his closing statement, he argues that in order to meet 21st century challenges and ensure shared prosperity, businesses need to boldly reformulate how they approach these challenges: sustainability and citizenship principles must be integrated into every aspect of business, ultimately eradicating the need for separate CSR departments and making CSR part of everybody’s job.

Those in the field who oppose Townsend’s bold move towards complete integration contend that there remains an important and invaluable role for traditional corporate philanthropy. Both sides of the debate are presented objectively in this 2011 TriplePundit article. Where do you fall on this debate? Is CSR dead, as Townsend alleges?

As a follow-up to their paper released in March on Flagship Social Investment Programs as the future of CSR, Corporate Citizenship released a blog about why, despite the clear preference for focused, integrated corporate citizenship programs, this future state has yet to be achieved. Such programs, while highly desirable (by 70% of surveyed CSR practitioners), are not yet mainstream (with only 12% of those surveyed currently running such a program).

Gallup’s April employee engagement poll reported that 31.7% of Americans are engaged in their jobs, reflecting a small yet sustained  improvement over 2014’s rates. In one particularly interesting output of the survey, Gallup found that the most educated workers are the least engaged in their work.

We’ve found skills-based volunteering to be a particularly effective tool for enabling highly skilled employees to stretch their skills, feel challenged at work and channel their education and expertise towards something they find meaningful. We’d love to hear about other employee engagement tactics that you’ve seen effectively meeting the specific needs of this population!

Hazel Henderson, founder of Ethical Markets Media, authored a CSRWire article about the evolving brand of the sustainable, responsible investment movement. As we’ve progressed from clunkier terms such as “low-entropy economies” to more accessible concepts like Shared Value, the “triple bottom line” and ESG (environment, social, governance), CSR has become more established in name and in practice.

The growing prominence of the ‘circular economy’ brand is a breakthrough in public understanding and will continue to find broader acceptance in many sectors and, at last, in mass media.”

The longstanding divisions between the nonprofit and for-profit sector are blurring more than ever before as CSR is becoming increasingly tied to business strategy, nonprofits are adopting best business practices, and new hybrid models of for-profit and nonprofit ventures like social enterprises and B-Corps are entering the mainstream. At face value, this breakdown of entrenched silos seems like progress.

Yet SSIR’s summer issue looks at whether this blurring of sectors is always a good thing. Check out Henry Mintzberg’s “Time for the Plural Sector,” about the perils of single sector dominance and Garry W. Jenkins’ “The Wall Street Takeover of Nonprofit Boards” about the overrepresentation of financiers on nonprofit boards, to learn about some of the darker outcomes of coalescing sectors.

The key distinction seems to be: collaboration, mutual learning and shared investment are valuable and imperative, but a complete amalgamation of the sectors and an eradication of their distinctive qualities could be detrimental to both business and social outcomes.



Please join Common Impact, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, a panel of industry experts, and corporate leaders from across Greater Boston for a rousing discussion about employee-led giving and service.
May 18, 11:30-1:00 (lunch provided), University of Massachusetts Boston: 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA
RSVP here

Be Social Change presents The Future of Community – How Nonprofits and Businesses are Engaging Audiences to Grow Their Impact. This panel discussion will explore the trends, challenges, and best practices in community-building and discuss techniques to effectively engage and activate customers, volunteers, and supporters to create social change.
May 21, New York, NY

Be Social Change is also hosting a fireside chat with Nancy Lubin, CEO of Lubin will reflect on her varied career and provide advice to attendees looking to turn their own passion into impact.
June 25, New York, NY

The VolunteerMatch Summit is a place for like-minded professionals in the fields of employee engagement and corporate responsibility to get together, share best practices, and learn from industry experts. For the first time ever, the Summit will be opened beyond VolunteerMatch’s client pool to companies far and wide who are committed to community engagement. Common Impact will be in attendance - join us!
December 1-2, Oakland, CA