Standfirst: CSR and sustainability programmes form a crucial link with profitability, research reveals – and they are also emerging as a key differentiator in the recruitment process.
Corporate social responsibility programmes are a key opportunity to boost engagement and attract top talent, research among Top Employers shows. Effective CSR programmes grow the three Ps: profit, people and planet, says Billy Elliott, Country Manager of the Top Employers Institute in Africa. Increasing this ‘triple bottom line’ is a consistent pattern among Top Employers – and research shows 97% of Top Employers across Africa have defined an organisation-wide CSR programme.
Why you should be leveraging CSR
The Top Employers Institute, which recognises excellence in the conditions employers create for their people globally, helps organisations stay on top of current HR Best Practices. It recommends a combination of approaches for ensuring an effective CSR programme: defining the programme throughout the organisation, making information about the programme freely accessible, and consistently evaluating its impact and effectiveness.
The majority of Top Employers across Africa implement all these practices in their CSR programmes, says Elliott. “Taking CSR seriously as a differentiator is as essential in the growing competition for talent as it is for reputation-building among stakeholders,” he adds.
“CSR and sustainability programmes are the primary way that organisations demonstrate their willingness to improve society and give back in a meaningful way,” says Elliott. “As such, these initiatives are emerging as a key mechanisms not only to make employees feel proud and involved with the organisation, enhancing organisational culture – but to attract new talent.”
How you should be leveraging CSR
Forbes contributor James Epstein-Reeves agrees that an effectively implemented CSR programme can have a major impact on employee engagement, stakeholder relationships and therefore, ultimately, profitability. Echoing Elliott’s sentiments on the three Ps, Epstein-Reeves cites a link between CSR and innovation, brand differentiation, employee engagement and even long-term cost saving.
Effectiveness requires buy-in, points out Elliott. Across South Africa, 94% of Top Employers consistently make information about their CSR programme freely accessible to employees, and 87% consistently evaluate their impact and effectiveness. In order to encourage employees to participate, over 75% grant special leave for participation in CSR activities.
James Hu, Talent Manager for Top Employer Africa Unilever, says CSR is part of the company’s core strategy and underpins Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), a blueprint for achieving growth without additional environmental impact and with greater social benefits. One of the goals of the USLP is to help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being, which is translated into action through various outreach initiatives. For example, the company recently signed a five-year agreement with the Department of Basic Education in South Africa to provide hygiene and sanitation education to Grade 1 learners in the country attending public primary schools.
Business growth and profitability do not have to come at the expense of planet and people, says Hu. “By being able to deliver value growth with our values, we have [been able] to achieve our growth targets whilst increasing our positive social and environmental impact.”
The USLP has led Unilever to make strides in all business areas, from brands and people to end-to-end supply. Unilever was recently named company with the most brands in the Kantar Worldpanel Global Top 50, most of these being Sustainable Living brands – brands designed with a strong environmental or social purpose, and which grew 50% faster than Unilever’s other brands and contributed to 60% of the company’s growth in 2016.
Unilever claimed top spot for the second year running in the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25, commended for reducing waste and increased use of renewable energy, and has been Africa’s number one Top Employer for three years running.
Hu summarises a successful CSR programme as effectively linking business goals with individual values. “We want our employees to not just be able to bring their whole selves to work, but to live out their purpose fully here at Unilever,” he says.
The Top Employers institute helps leading employers around the world adapt to the rapidly changing HR environment.