Office Design

The FM’s guide to healthy culture and corporate social responsibility

David Spence
October 29th, 2013

Unpacking corporate social responsibility

corporate social responsibilityAs the economy becomes more global, consumers are becoming more concerned about their favorite companies’ business practices. What they buy in South Dakota may have a direct link to a community in South Africa. So companies are now embracing the concept known as corporate social responsibility. But what is corporate social responsibility, and how does it contribute to a healthy corporate culture?  We’ve curated some insight to explain its importance.

What *is* corporate responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)  is part of what’s known as the “triple bottom line.” This take on the traditional bottom line of course includes revenue; however, it also adds social and environmental factors to the mix. CSR recognizes that the company impacts players besides stakeholders and shareholders, acknowledging that local and international communities, as well as the natural environment, are all part of its bottom line. Today, this acknowledgement is a crucial component of a healthy corporate culture.

Why it matters

Sustainability and fair trade are no longer the concerns of the select few—they’re increasingly becoming more and more important to both consumers and employees. According to research conducted by TheLadders, a site for job seekers, almost 90 percent of respondents placed high value on companies with eco-friendly initiatives. On the customer’s side, a study by Core Communications and Echo Research revealed that 90 percent of buyers would choose a product that “supports a good cause,” when deciding between two products of “similar price and quality”.

Types of CSR

CSR takes many different shapes; there’s environmental CSR, which may focus on decreasing pollution and practicing green strategies. There’s charitable CSR, which focuses on the donation of the company’s time, money, and resources. There’s also a branch of CSR that emphasizes ethical labor concerns. It focuses on ensuring the fair treatment of workers, which is an important issue for companies with global outposts, where workers may not have the same labor laws protecting them as American workers do.


corporate responsibility

How large companies put it into practice

Some of today’s biggest brands are making efforts to support their suppliers, customers and community members. Take Starbucks, for example. It uses a policy to ensure that its coffee is produced under the most ethical conditions possible. Ben & Jerry’s has established a fair trade dairy farm in Vermont, and its ice cream only contains fair trade products. Meanwhile, Haagen-Dazs is focusing on educating the public about the importance of honeybees to food production: they pollinate a third of our foods, and bee populations are dwindling.

Certified B Corp companies have been successfully certified by the nonprofit organization, B Lab. These companies hold high standards for environmental and social responsibility, and use business as a force for good. Workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a major consideration when it comes to B Lab’s certification processes, and thankfully they provide plenty of advice and resources that can be used to create a more diverse workplace. If you’re looking to make sure your office is a safe, diverse and socially minded place, these tips can help.

Develop a shared language

Creating mutual understandings in the workplace is the first step to creating a diversity-oriented workplace. People naturally have differing definitions of inclusion and diversity. Managers can start by holding discussions aimed at creating mutual definitions for common terms like “inclusion” and “cultural competency”. Establishing this shared understanding helps companies address processes and policies with less confusion, and ensures department heads, HR, and employees are all on the same page when it comes to cultural expectations and requirements.

Have a measurement plan

Etsy is a popular B Corp company, which recently released a public diversity report about their workplace. Their data shows that they’ve made great strides in gender representation across their teams. Having data like this helps companies target specific D&I issues and present their progress to internal teams or the general public. A strong measurement plan also helps stakeholders get on the same page by using more objective information to make big choices.

Create policies

Policies are important because they solidify a company’s commitment to diversity by formalizing good practices in the business structure. Managers should consider establishing diversity policies related to equal employment, harassment, discrimination, and complaints (at the very least). Companies like Mightybytes have used formalized policies to strengthen the values and practices they already hold. Creating well-grounded policies is especially helpful for companies that might be going through rapid change where shifting strategies and objectives may reduce the emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Conduct training

Diversity training helps increase the understanding of teams and bring about a new level of cultural awareness to the office. Managers looking to implement a training program should take a nuanced approach. Training shouldn’t emphasize legal risks or compliance when it comes to diversity—research has shown that these approaches often backfire, showing a lack of commitment to the values of diversity. Training should also be conducted by a strong facilitator to ensure people’s voices are heard and conversations focus on the topic. Unconscious bias is a great place to start when conducting diversity training. Managers can tap into bias training resources like Harvard’s attribution test or Google’s unbiasing workshop to get started with fighting bias and improving diversity.

corporate training

A culture of diversity helps companies remain innovative while bolstering efforts to hire the best talent. A more diverse workplace is not only more socially responsible, but it also benefits from various skill sets and perspectives. Additionally, there is evidence that a more diverse workforce can increase profits. If your workplace can demonstrate its commitment to social responsibility, you can serve as a leading example within your field—and attract clients not only due to the quality of your service, but also the values at the core of your operations. Managers interested in creating inclusive spaces should consider B Lab’s certification.


CSR in your company

Environmental management expert Rob Fenn writes that there are many things you can do practice CSR in your own workplace, regardless of your company’s size:

Take a look at the supplies that are delivered to your office—are they local, or are they     delivered from a distant location? If you switch to local suppliers, you may be able to cut costs on delivery and support your community at the same time.

Think of a way to get involved with a charity: ask employees what organization they’d most like to support and brainstorm a way to get involved with that organization. This could be anything from a day spent volunteering to providing sponsorship to creating a special partnership with the company.

Consider providing training or part-time opportunities to workers who are seeking employment. While you may not be able to offer them full-time work, you can give back to your community by helping its members build up their skill sets.

Make the effort to save on paper and other resources. Given that the average worker uses 11 sheets of paper per day, a normal eight hour day can have a big impact on the earth’s reserve of natural resources. Identifying ways to cut down on the office paper trail, from recycling to using paper-saving software programs, can help prevent this problem. (function(){ var s=’hubspotutk’,r,c=((r=new RegExp(‘(^|; )’+s+’=([^;]*)’).exec(document.cookie))?r[2]:”),w=window;w[s]=w[s]||c, hsjs=document.createElement(“script”),el=document.getElementById(“hs-cta-b7d2985a-4f6e-431c-99b1-16467251a881”); hsjs.type = “text/javascript”;hsjs.async = true; hsjs.src = “//” + encodeURIComponent(c); (document.getElementsByTagName(“head”)[0]||document.getElementsByTagName(“body”)[0]).appendChild(hsjs); try{”hidden”;}catch(err){} setTimeout(function() {try{”visible”;}catch(err){}}, 2500); })();

photo credit: woodleywonderworks, Goumbik, Lukas, Christina Morillo