CSR is Changing Around Us – In Fact, It Already Was
You can’t be in CSR and not wonder about the lasting effects of Covid-19 on both the profession and the robust, connected ecosystem of people and causes. Jumping to the punch line, the answer – of course – is that things will change about how we engage in social good. But the current pandemic isn’t responsible for driving all this change. Instead, it is amplifying the speed at which we are adapting to a shift that was already underway.
I did a TEDx talk a few years ago challenging the way CSR practices of the past focused too much on the needs of the corporate, suggesting that we needed to move to a focus on the human. Although my thinking has certainly evolved, the core tenants remain true in the change I am observing around me.
- Purpose truly matters – There’s nothing like a global pandemic to prove to us that we live interconnected lives, that we need all parts of our systems and economies to function in a healthy way. Companies, which were already hearing from the likes of Larry Fink about making “a positive contribution to society,” are seeing first-hand why purpose matters more than ever.
- People want choice – We as humans are seeking increased connection with the organizations and people we work alongside. We come to work bringing our whole selves and expect our employers to ask, listen and respond. We want to engage, on our own terms, and when given the chance to do it, we take it. Looking at the company where I work as an example, which offers a broad choice in how we match gifts, 32% of our people used the program in 2019, which is almost three times the national median in the United States.
- Old barriers are falling away – Although companies are now seeking quality virtual volunteerism opportunities at record rates, the need was there before Covid-19. People want to serve, and nonprofits need them. But there was a barrier in the way, in our thinking, that this pandemic has pushed aside. People are getting creative about how to offer their skills through digital means, and nonprofits are realizing it would be wise to tap into these assets. Returning to the workplace isn’t going to change this – the demand is there – as is the focus on acts of generosity that aren’t technically “charitable” but are at the heart of how many want to serve.
CSR is Changing
I’ll close by saying that I have never been more focused on the fact that we are functioning in two macro communities, neither of which we should ignore, take for granted or leave unobserved. We are global, connected in ways we didn’t think about before, connections that are fundamental to how we live and, alternatively, scary as illness spreads. And we are hyper-local, holding tight to those closest to us, helping our neighbours and making sure the restaurant down the street stays afloat. However, as we “return” to the new normal, I’d like to think we won’t lose sight of this interconnectedness and use it as an asset to prepare us for whatever is next.
Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, Blackbaud