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Ellevate DEI Tips: Best Practices for Building a CSR Program

Ellevate DEI Tips: Best Practices for Building a CSR Program

Amidst all of the uncertainty due to coronavirus, we’re seeing more and more desire to band together and do good. We’re seeing companies redirect manufacturing equipment to build PPE and ventilators, individuals helping to deliver food to elderly and vulnerable neighbors, and essential workers heading to work day-in and day-out to keep the world running.

Prior to the pandemic, we were seeing companies getting involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is defined by Investopedia as “a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable… By practicing CSR, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental”. We led a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) roundtable with Veena Jayadeva, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Guardian Life Insurance and co-chair of Guardian’s Women’s Network, where she answered all of our burning questions related to CSR.

Starting a CSR Program

The first thing to understand is that every company is different - find what works for your organization and allows your employees to engage with the community.

  • Operationalize a national and local strategy
    • The team developing your national strategy should include CSR, HR, D&I, senior executives, & regional employees to ensure appropriate buy-in from all stakeholders
    • Find local ambassadors in each office who know the community and can mobilize employees in each location
    • If employee / business resource groups exist, utilize them to direct local volunteerism, community partnerships, and environmental sustainability projects
  • Tie initiatives to your company’s overall mission: A financial services company might choose to provide financial literacy classes to underserved populations.
    • Building Environmental Social Governance (ESG) frameworks into your company’s bottom line
  • Ensure there are a range of opportunities so all employees can get involved, including hourly workers, remote employees, etc.
  • Add Volunteer Time Off days to allocated paid time off
  • Start with a National Day of Service to build engagement but CSR should evolve into long-term, sustainable partnerships
  • Re-evaluate your program and options for involvement on a regular basis

Who Should be Involved

  • Executive Leadership: Genuine, active participation will encourage others to get involved. Also, utilize senior executives to over-communicate CSR opportunities via email, intranet, & social.
  • Managers should be trained in CSR policies so direct reports feel comfortable asking for time to volunteer.
  • Employees at all levels should volunteer as office ambassadors to drive the engagement in their individual communities.

Picking the Right Partners

Your strategy should align with your business on a national level. However, this is a great opportunity for local employee and executive engagement. Let them pick community partners that will best allow them to show up for the community and build the ongoing relationship.

On a national level, pick 3-5 nonprofits you support at all times so you have the relationships and connections when things like pandemics happen so you can continue to help. It may also be helpful to connect your community partners to work together or to other members of your business who can help guide them, such as a lawyer or accountant who can provide pro-bono services.

Measuring Success

To measure your social returns, look at:

  • Employee engagement scores
  • Professional development opportunities: Employees who step up and take an active role CSR engagement
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Qualitative data: Enact a listening tour to understand how your employees feel about CSR programming

It’s important to note when looking at CSR success rates that there’s an intersection across a triple bottom line - financial, social, and environmental - that can’t be unweaved, so remember to look at these holistically.

Keeping CSR Top of Mind During a Crisis When Budgets are Tight

In order for a company to deliver a comprehensive response during times of crisis, all departments should be involved, including CSR and DEI.

You can work with your Human Resources department to understand how your colleagues have been impacted and enact ways for your company to help, such as:

  • Employee assistance & financial relief
  • Flex work schedule & extended benefits
  • Employee donation funds that can support other colleagues and their communities

Your CSR initiatives should be proactive rather than reactive and a structure should be in place so when a situation like what we’re in now arises, things can progress smoothly. The working group behind it should:

  • Meet regularly to drive initiatives forward
  • Break down silos by including HR, CSR, D&I, marketing, partner representatives, etc.
  • Continue to support partners during crises, even in a non-financial way

If you’re looking for ways you and your employees can help, here are some remote options that were shared during the roundtable:

In the end, it comes down to the individual. Everyone has the opportunity to push the needle a little further and help push the conversation along. CSR plays a fundamental role for companies in talent acquisition, employee satisfaction and engagement, and leadership development opportunities at all levels. It provides meaning and purpose for employees, but also plays an essential role in bridging gaps between various departments by connecting employees to a company’s central social impact mission.

If interested in launching a CSR program at your company, reach out to other CSR individuals. It’s not a competition - we’re all trying to do the best for society so get involved and bring others along with you. We’ll get through this together.

*Our next DEI roundtable will be on April 24th and will focus on supporting the mental health and well-being of your employees. To learn more and request an invite, click here.*


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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