BY ROB WYSE
Would you want to work at a company that cares about people and the environment, or one that does not?
Would you rather buy shoes from TOMS Shoes – a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need with its One for One® program, or from any shoe company?
How about Bombas socks? For every pair of Bombas you purchase, the company donates a pair to someone in need. Would that make you more prone to buying their brand? They have donated more than nine million pairs of socks.
These companies are committed to social responsibility (CSR). They are operating on a triple bottom line measuring a company’s (1) social responsibility, (2) economic value, and (3) environmental impact.
A triple bottom line can attract customers who prefer companies that care about the environment and people – and it can attract employees, especially millennials – the workforce segment critical to any company’s future.
Millennials in the workforce
Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce in the US, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Looking to the future, a study by EY reveals millennials will be 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.
According to Deloitte Insights, a 2017 study found that “millennials are becoming increasingly sensitive to how their organizations address issues such as income inequality, hunger, and the environment. Eighty-eight (88) percent of millennials believe that employers should play a vital role in alleviating these concerns, and 86 percent say the business success should be measured by more than profitability.”
Further, millennials embrace brands that are connected to causes in line with their own. In the 5th Millennial Impact Report, more than half of respondents noted that an enterprise’s involvement in causes influenced whether or not they chose to work at the company.
Connecting with millennials
With millennials critical in driving the economy and labour force for the next two decades, CSR is critical to an organization’s survival.
Unfortunately, most companies are not connecting with millennials. A Gallup study shows only 29 percent are engaged at work, with 16 percent actively disengaged. Being actively disengaged means they aim to actually damage their company. The remaining 55 percent of responding millennials are simply not engaged.
For companies to connect, being environmentally friendly is not enough. For example WeWork, the shared-space office company, said in an email to employees in July 2018, “moving forward, we will not serve or pay for meat at WeWork events and want to clarify that this includes poultry and pork, as well as red meat”.
One of the company’s co-founders, Miguel McKelvey, holds the title of chief culture officer. He noted that the policy was a way to do more to be environmentally conscious. This program by WeWork likely connects with millennials. The consulting firm, Mercer, wrote that millennials care more about a company’s purpose than money. Millennials want to work for companies that address major issues like climate change, resource scarcity and income inequality.
The top CSR companies
Forbes publishes a list of the top CSR companies as determined by The Reputation Institute. Topping the list in 2017 were Lego at number 1; Microsoft at number 2; and Google at number 3.
Below is a brief overview of the commitment of each to CSR:
Lego has been committed to CSR since 2003. It is focused on children, environment and people. Accordingly, Lego wants to inspire children to learn through play and promote their safety and right to play, focuses on combatting climate change and reducing resource use, does business the LEGO® way because they care.
In Lego’s responsibility ambitions, they go beyond environmental leadership to discuss its aim to be caring, ethical and transparent. It states: “In our daily work we strive to uphold the highest ethical business standards and business practices, with respect for human and labour rights, while doing everything we can to promote and protect our employees’ well-being and safety. We will never sacrifice our values or purpose for the sake of short-term profit.”
Critical in Lego’s statement is people over profits.
In Satya Nadella’s 2017 letter in the Microsoft annual report, he said, “Our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet extends to our corporate social responsibility efforts. We strive to use our technology, grants, employees and voice to improve people’s lives by enabling access to the benefits and opportunities that technology offers.”
Since Nadella became chairman succeeding Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, the company seems to have taken on a cultural shift to being a more empathetic corporate entity.
Part of that shift could be driven by Gates’ incredible reputation for social responsibility with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Also, part can be from Nadella who came from a middle-class family in India.
In a Fast Company article on Nadella, it noted that he believes humans are empathetic, which is necessary for creating harmony at work and making products that will resonate with users. Nadella said, “You have to be able to say, ‘Where is this person coming from?’”
Google, number three on the list, has announced “a 5-year goal to award $1 billion in grants and contribute 1 million employee volunteer hours”. Their efforts are focused on three areas where Google believes it can make an impact – Education, Economic Opportunity and Inclusion.
As they stated, Google aims to close the world’s education gap, help people prepare for the future of work, and use data science and innovative new approaches to advance inclusion and justice for all.
These companies are connected to people, profits and the planet – those with CSR are where millennials want to work. CSR is a cornerstone of workforce attraction, retention and development.
To be a company committed to CSR, you do not have to be a global economic force like Google, Microsoft – or even Lego.
You just have to be a force committed to a triple bottom line. In doing so, you can help secure a future with millennials.
A future includes paying it forward – so go ahead and buy those Bombas socks.
Rob Wyse is a leading publicist in the United States as well as a prolific writer. He is a top commentator on workplace issues and dysfunctional CEOs. Rob is also the managing director of Capital Content, a PR and marketing firm that develops issues-driven thought leadership and strategic communications campaigns. To connect with him, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.