There’s no doubting that millennials are influencing the modern working world more than any other generation. Between flexible working, renewed employee engagement, career progression and diversity, workplaces are having to assess, re-design and enhance procedures and processes in order to cater for the ever-growing number of employable 22-37 year olds.
However, arguably the largest area in which millennials are making an impact is in corporate social responsibility. Emboldened by a sense of purpose and the opportunity to make a difference, young workers are increasingly expecting to work for companies that ‘contribute to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefit for all stakeholders’.1 They’re ‘voting’ with their job choices, with research showing that companies who ignore CSR do so at their own peril.
A 2018 report by Deloitte found that 88% of millennials want to work for a socially responsible company2, while a study by US-based Cone Communications revealed 64% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work3. Furthermore, the same study showed 64% won’t take a job if a company doesn’t have strong CSR values with 83% saying they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.
Dovetail with business success
Heart of the City is a not-for-profit small business network that aims to make information about CSR easily accessible, encouraging the implementation of measures that can improve society. With over 800 members, they aim to help companies implement responsible business activities for the first time, taking them from concept to execution.
“We see corporate social responsibility as the opportunity for companies to bring to the core of their business a responsible approach to people, places and the planet. We believe that every business, whatever size, can be a force for good,” says Grace Shotbolt, Communications and Marketing Officer at Heart of the City.
“People want to work for and buy from brands that have a social purpose, so doing the right things really can be good for your business and help you to make a profit.”
For Niki Fuchs, Managing Director of Office Space in Town (OSIT), their corporate social responsibility programme is intrinsically linked to the business’ overall success.
“We believe that being good at business means doing good as a business. We hold ourselves accountable for the impact our business has on the environment and society,” he says.
“We have guidelines for our people and the people we work with to ensure that our business supports charities, invests in staff development, and encourages sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings and operations.”
What does CSR cover?
Responsible business spans social, economic and environmental issues, giving businesses a wide range to work with. However, deciding where to begin can be many companies’ first hurdle.
“The key thing is to do what works for your business. In Heart of the City’s 2018 Foundation Programme, we’ve covered topics ranging from developing an environmental programme, to introducing apprenticeships, engaging key stakeholders in responsible business and how to use responsible business programme to help recruit and retain staff,” explains Grace.
“Activities that our members ran over the last year include an invention competition for school pupils, awareness-raising events to improve understanding of mental health in the workplace and involving all staff in the selection of a charity partner.”
For the employees of OSIT, corporate social responsibility also translates to a wide range of initiatives: “Charity work forms a big part of our CSR strategy, which is why each year by collective vote, our management team chooses a charity that has a personal resonance to a member of the OSIT Team,” says Niki.
“Our fundraising is varied and has seen our people involved in some fun, yet challenging situations. We’ve done everything from ‘Tough Mudder’ challenges to bake sales, quiz and Open Mic nights to themed parties and gin tastings.”
However, it’s not just charitable works: “We encourage sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings and operations. This ranges from big items, like the recycling of paper, printer cartridges and batteries throughout our sites, through to the smaller details, like serving fair trade tea and coffee and introducing reusable carry cups,” explains Niki.
Establishing return on investment
While it requires financial investment, a successful CSR scheme’s ROI is about much more than the bottom line.
“A responsible business programme improves company culture and builds a cohesive workforce, it can help the company both save money (through efficiency and staff retention) and make money (by building a highly attractive brand and winning tenders where this is a weighted element),” says Grace.
Those who have enrolled in Heart of the City’s Foundation Programme have experienced a number of benefits: “In 2017, 73% reported that our programme helped with staff development, 63% introduced waste reduction policies, 25% reported cost savings due to environmental initiatives alone and 38% saw an improvement in staff retention,” explains Grace.
The team at OSIT have found particular value with their CSR programme with attracting and retaining staff: “We are a commercial business run with family values and we believe this resonates not only with people who want to come and work for but also why we have such excellent staff retention rates,” says Niki.
“Start small, work up to bigger things and involve everyone.”
However, as with any workplace scheme, introducing a CSR scheme comes with its own set of challenges: “CSR is something done by busy employees off the side of their desks so they can find it difficult to develop a comprehensive strategy,” explains Grace.
“We know that getting support across the company can also be a challenge but putting in the effort early on in building senior leader support and a network of champions across the business pays dividends later on.”
For those looking to go out on their own, Niki suggests making it a company-wide effort: “If you don’t have a programme – establish one. Start small, work up to bigger things and involve everyone. People naturally support what they help to build and feel a sense of ownership for.”
With the potential to not only enhance your bottom line but encourage staff retention and attraction, encouraging employee involvement in corporate social responsibility should be top of the list for businesses moving forward. With millennials set to make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020, those who ignore it will be left behind.
Find out more about Heart of the City at theheartofthecity.com or Office Space in Town at www.officespaceintown.com.