Corporate Social Responsibility
How Young Professionals Are Revolutionizing CSR

PROVIDED BY JAN KELLEY

Seventy-six percent of millennials believe businesses can have a positive impact on the wider society in which they operate, and also believe that multinational businesses are not realizing their potential to alleviate society’s biggest challenges, according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017. And while corporate social responsibility (CSR) is traditionally understood as a company’s initiatives to take responsibility for its impact on environmental and social well-being, young professionals in the workforce present a real opportunity for a CSR revolution―and it’s about time.
Brock University’s Goodman School of Business recently held an expert panel, Making Business Matter, where industry experts discussed the latest trends in corporate social responsibility, how organizations choose which causes and initiatives to support, and how they communicate their social responsibility efforts to the public. Young professionals continued to come up throughout the discussion as a catalyst for change in the CSR space. So, how might the new generation make a difference in CSR?

Expecting More From Employers
Despite being labelled as entitled, lazy and materialistic―millennials are focused on social impact more than any other generation. Their decisions are guided by their own moral compass, and they aspire to work for an organization that aligns with their own values. The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial Survey showed that 62% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a more socially responsible company. This puts a new type of pressure on businesses, knowing that the best and brightest minds of the future may have higher expectations around their employers and the impact of CSR initiatives.
Initiate CSR Activity
No matter the field of expertise nor level of seniority, young professionals are taking control of CSR activity. Too often companies are choosing a charity to support, and then patting themselves on the back for their good service to the community. Traditional CSR initiatives can also be ineffective when they are run by committees functioning in a silo with programs that are not all that aligned with the company’s broader business objectives. When this happens, CSR looks less authentic to an outsider, even though employees often have the best intentions. For example, a pet food company that values the health and well-being of animals will likely make more of an impact and appear more authentic working with the SPCA than donating to a cancer charity.
Fortunately, new generations are pushing for an integrated approach, looking for ways to incorporate social responsibility into the bloodline of their organization, and instill it within the company’s business objectives, where profits and human and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. Young professionals are looking at CSR as a more natural bi-product of an organization’s existence, rather than a company pet project.

Bringing Academia To The Workforce
CSR is an important part of business studies where students gain valuable exposure to research and key insights into some of the successful (and not so successful) CSR initiatives in the marketplace today. For example, at the Goodman School of Business, there is a distinct focus and approach to teaching students about social change through business exposing them to research, best practices, and experts from the workforce as well as experiential learning where students work with companies firsthand in developing and executing CSR strategies. The Making Business Matter panel discussion is just one recent example of how educators are finding new ways to engage their students with the real world and learn how CSR is practiced every day.
The Goodman School of Business is continuing to progress this area of study through its own CSR research initiatives. Researchers are currently studying the public perceptions of CSR initiatives and seeking to identify some of the key factors that contribute to a successful CSR strategy for businesses.
“Research should really be a top consideration when companies are looking to engage in CSR,” explains Todd Green, professor at the Goodman School of Business. “This can help guide initiatives towards strategy rather than personal ties to a cause.”
When this type of thinking is brought to the workforce, organizations will be better equipped than ever to make strategic CSR decisions that are best for business and for society at large. BL

Jan Kelley is located on 1006 Skyview Drive in Burlington. For more information, please call 905.631.3942 or visit www.jankelley.com.