The Power of We in CSR: Blog Action Day 2012

Today’s blog post is inspired by Blog Action Day which brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day. The 2012 Topic is “The Power of We” and you can check out more on the Blog Action Day website.

There is no place where I see “The Power of We” theory come to life more than in the practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR). “The Power of We” evokes the spirit of working together for something bigger. The ethos of CSR includes this same sense of collaboration and engagement, and the practice would not exist without these traits.

No matter the amount of money or time available, the success of a CSR program cannot be fully realized without collaboration and engagement of many important stakeholders – or as we’re referring to today – “The Power of We”.

Too often we see the lone CSR Manager championing practices that will help the organization stand for something bigger than itself. They’re creating the perfect plan to green the office, developing an exciting volunteer program to get employees helping out in local communities or determining the perfect product innovation that will make the business more responsible. Despite the good intentions of these visionaries, without a sense of shared responsibility among all employees, executives, board members, etc. the success of those intentions may never be fully realized or optimized.

“The Power of We” must exist on many levels of the business, not just in the CSR department silo. Consider the following tiers of engagement – which collectively support “The Power of We” theory:

Engage Employees
Employees are the lifeblood of any organization, and are highly interested in the organizations CSR initiatives. Involving employees in CSR will not only help ensure you have more “hands on deck” to support the strategic priorities of the organization, you’ll also gain stronger loyalty, productivity and morale from employees on all levels.

Engage Local Communities
Gone are the days when companies can operate without concern for the communities where they are located. Consider the opportunities of engaging local communities in CSR such as greater consumer loyalty and stronger business reputation – not to mention a large pool of advocates and potential beneficiaries of your program activities.

Engage Partners
All great programs are built on great partnerships. Whether this involves multi-company collectives to achieve a specific goal, or a corporate/nonprofit partnership to support a specific cause – there is no doubt that many hands make light work. And when we can find common ground to bring partners together, we are more likely to fulfill our CSR goals.

Engage Global Communities
Today’s communication landscape breaks down walls that once separated us from others around the globe. We now have the power to not only influence our local communities, but also people and organizations around the globe. Consider how you can amplify your CSR plan to extend beyond those in your backyard – how the message and philosophy your company lives by can extend to audiences around the globe.

“The Power of We” is an important reminder of what we stand for as a community of CSR professionals. We seek to make business stand for something more for profits. We aim to make life more fulfilling for all citizens. We rally individuals to positively impact important causes. And we couldn’t do any of this without coming together as a community.

Webinar Recap: The Radically Engaged Business – A 2012 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Encore Presentation with Carol Cone

For the August edition of our Best Practice Network Webinar Series, we spoke with Carol Cone, the renowned “mother of cause marketing” and Global Chair of Edelman Business + Social Purpose. This webinar was an encore presentation of Carol’s 2012 VolunteerMatch Client Summit keynote speech, where she wowed audiences with her thoughts on building a purpose-driven business and developing a successful cause marketing strategy.

During the webinar, many attendees also engaged in an exciting Twitter conversation using the hashtag #VMbpn. Check out what they had to say throughout this recap.


Here are a few of Carol’s key take-away points.

Employee engagement is key.

According to a recent Gallup study, organizations with high employee engagement had a 3.9 times higher earnings per share growth than those with low employee engagement. Furthermore, engaged employees put in 57% more effort and were 87% less likely to leave the company than disengaged employees.

Employees are the center of your brand, and they can be the center of your cause marketing campaign, too. Happy, productive employees can push your business and cause forward, leading to essential future growth.



Adapt to an evolving marketplace — and consumer.

Carol emphasized the importance of understanding that we live in a world in transition, where many social issues are at play. The modern “citizen consumer” is an empowered member of a shifting marketplace, where customers expect transparency and social responsibility.

86% of global consumers believe that businesses should value social issues as highly as profits. Additionally, a recent Edelman study found that, when choosing between two products with equivalent prices and functions, a consumer is more likely to choose the one that promotes a cause. These consumers are also highly active on various social media platforms, making them more aware and empowered than ever. They expect authenticity and accountability — and they’ll be able to tell if your company’s efforts are not genuine. Make sure you’re using technology effectively, and that your social media efforts mirror your investment in social issues


Tell your story.

Finally, Carol discussed the importance of storytelling in communicating a company’s socially responsible policy and impact. It’s important to focus your efforts on one issue that aligns with your organization’s industry and audience. Only after you’ve chosen a relevant cause should you select a partner.


Then, you can begin to shape your narrative, using personal anecdotes and compelling language to form an accessible and inspiring story. Don’t brag about your accomplishments; instead, aim to connect with individuals.

So what exactly is a radically engaged business? It’s an organization that has adapted to a changing world, marketplace, employee and consumer. A radically engaged business knows that corporate social responsibility isn’t just a feel-good addition to your marketing strategy. Investment in social issues is essential for your future growth and continued survival in an ever-evolving marketplace.

Watch the full webinar here.

Don’t miss our next Best Practice Network Webinar on September 13. Register today for What’s the Difference? Exploring the Convergence of Cause Marketing & CSR Craig Bida of Cone Communications and Dave Stangis of Campbell Soup Company!

Humana’s CSR Report Highlights Integrated Strategy and Volunteer Program

Volunteer programs are a key element of an integrated corporate social responsibility strategy.

They prove that a company is taking social responsibility seriously. Rather than treating CSR like an isolated sector, a for-profit with a volunteer program actively engages employees, consumers and stakeholders alike. It sees CSR as an essential strategy to be incorporated into every aspect of its business.

VolunteerMatch encourages our clients, partners and members of the community to view CSR in this light. So we’re really excited about the 2010 & 2011 CSR report that Humana, one of our clients, just released!

The health insurance company has recently released Well-Being Starts With Us, a summary of the company’s CSR efforts over the last two years.

By focusing on its comprehensive CSR policies, Humana is setting a great example for future social responsibility and volunteerism reporting. Well-Being Starts With Us provides a transparent outline of Humana’s CSR goals, initiatives and achievements, including its volunteerism efforts.

Humana’s three-pronged CSR platform of Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Healthy Performance aims to promote enterprise-wide healthy choices and well-being. We think it’s an excellent example of an integrated and successful CSR strategy with a volunteer component.

VolunteerMatch at #SB12con: Co-Creation for Employee Engagement

2012 Sustainable Brands Conference took place June 4-7

Collaboration and co-creation were reoccurring themes throughout the 2012 Sustainable Brands Conference (SB12), and I was glad to see event facilitators practicing what they preach by encouraging participants to take part in a co-creation team during the four days of the event in San Diego, CA.

Sally Uren, Deputy Chief Executive of Forum for the Future, and member of the Sustainable Brands advisory board led the co-creation initiative, bringing us through a multi-step process of addressing challenges the Sustainable Brands community faces. Teams met throughout the four-day conference to draft proposals for challenges the community should address, and how we can come together to address them.

I joined a team focused on employee engagement along with Kevin Wilhelm, CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting and Tiffany Bolton, Sustainability Analyst at Petsmart. We had a power team representing a consulting firm, company and nonprofit – which gave us the perfect balance of perspectives when addressing the complex challenge of getting individuals engaged in social and environmental change.

Through the format of the co-creation exercise, we identified the challenge, some ideas to overcome the challenge and how the entire Sustainable Brands community can get involved to help. Five of these co-creation ideas were selected by a panel of judges to be supported and highlighted by the Sustainable Brands community – including the Employee Engagement team! Here is a summary of our work together, and our suggestions for bringing more attention to the topic:

The Challenge:
How can a company transform its employee base, from overlooked and apathetic, to engaged CSR advocates? This challenge looks to help CSR program managers access the examples, frameworks and tools to make employee engagement easier.

Ideas to Overcome the Challenge:

  • Showcase case studies of effective employee engagement in the CSR community
  • Highlight approaches or frameworks to help build an effective employee engagement program
  • Bring the challenge and its solutions to the forefront of CSR conversations through media and content

How the Sustainable Brands Community Can Help:
The Sustainable Brands community is a mix of companies, consultants, agencies, social enterprises, journalists and nonprofits – so there are many different heads that can come together on this topic. The Employee Engagement Co-Creation team came up with the following suggestions for the community to take part in this shared challenge:

  1. Submit case studies or stories of employee engagement challenges and successes to share with the community. These can be compiled into guides, webinars or articles and shared with the public to learn from. (VolunteerMatch is beginning to plan a Best Practice Network Webinar on this topic for later this year – please contact us if you have something to share!)
  2. Write articles sharing stories, frameworks and approaches for effective employee engagement. These can be published CSR news channels such as industry blogs, the Sustainable Brands news site and wire services to get the word out about the practice. (We welcome submissions to guest-post on the Volunteering Is CSR blog).
  3. Repurpose information, articles and case studies you already have about effective employee engagement so we can gather these resources into an easy-to-access spot for CSR practitioners. (We’ll be coordinating a repository for this information with the Sustainable Brands team, so feel free to share your content!)

Paradise Point, San Diego, CA is the location for SB12 and SB13

I left the SB12 conference with a bundle of energy to spotlight the challenges engaging employees in CSR programs. If you share my enthusiasm for creating more effective employee engagement, please contact me with ideas and information you have. Stay tuned for more from the SB12 Employee Engagement team, as we work to drive the conversation forward leading up to SB13.



Upcoming Best Practice Network Webinar: Building Business to be the Best FOR the World

Being a competitive business today isn’t just about a positive bottom line – it’s about a positive triple bottom line, where people, planet and profit are all accounted for in measuring business success. Good social and environmental practices help contribute to consumer loyalty, employee recruitment and retention, and stronger profits. It’s no longer enough to be the best in the world; companies must also prove they are the best FOR the world. This shift in consumer, employee and market factors has created a movement of companies embedding social and environmental missions into the DNA of the organization.

At the helm of this movement is B Lab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Lab is building a business community of certified B Corporations and the market infrastructure necessary to create a new sector of the economy that will redefine success in business.

B Corporations: Building Business to be the Best FOR the World

Join VolunteerMatch Solutions for a conversation with B Lab’s Director of Services, Vale Jokisch, who will share more information about what it takes to become a B Corporation and how these organizations are transforming the business sector. Participants will learn the key trends impacting the shift to more responsible businesses, share best practices of B Corporations and tips for how to get started.

Register for this FREE event
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
10-11 a.m. PT (1-2 p.m. ET)
Follow the conversation on Twitter @VM_Solutions, #VMbpn

Vale Jokisch, Director of Services, B Lab

About Our Guest Speaker:
Vale is the Director of Services at B Lab, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of business to address the world’s most pressing challenges. Vale works to build a community of Certified B Corporations, giving certified companies the tools to improve their financial performance, deepen their social and environmental impact, and drive the movement to create a new sector of the economy that will redefine success in business.

Prior to joining B Lab, Vale was the Deputy Director of Empowerment Group, a non-profit microenterprise development organization.  She also has experience in law and as a full-time musician.  Vale holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College and an MBA with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

CSR Food for Thought: Higher Purpose = Higher Profits

All the CSR news you need in a bite-sized blog post

The CSR Food for Thought series is a weekly roundup of relevant news from around the Web, presented to you in one bite-sized blog post.

Since we were silent last Friday when our office was out volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco this week’s edition includes stories from the last two weeks. If you’re still feeling mad we missed you last week, maybe this photo of our president Greg Baldwin on the Habitat job site will cheer you up.

Inspiring and Engaging Employees Around Sustainability

Company policy and reporting won’t be enough to make a noticeable impact toward achieving CSR goals – true impact requires buy-in and participation of corporate employees. Representatives from Clorox and Glad Products offer tips for how to get employees engaged in sustainability efforts (which we think can also be applied to volunteer or social efforts, too). Want more? Join us next week for a free webinar where BBMG’s Raphael Bemporad will cover five practices for engaging employees.

Using Corporate Responsibility to Mind the Talent Gap
Have you ever thought of workforce development as a corporate responsibility issue?  With economic and job development some of the biggest societal issues today, it’s no surprise that some companies are looking inward to their own employee development as a key program focus. PwC’s CR Leader explains how they’ve focused on the challenge of workforce development with a CR lens.

25 Companies That Practice Good Corporate Citizenship and Still Make Lots of Money
Today every company is working to become better corporate citizens in an effort meet the rising expectations of consumers. The Global Corporate Reputation Index, released by Burson-Marsteller and partners this month, highlights the 25 companies with the best corporate reputations – a mashup of marketplace performance and corporate citizenship. We’re proud to see our clients Coca Cola, Google, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Philips and Sony on the list!

50 Fastest Growing Brands Serve a ‘Higher Purpose’
Another just-released study shows that better CSR equals better profits. Milward Brown teamed up with former Procter and Gamble marketing officer Jim Stengle to compare the financial performance of 50 hand-selected purpose-driven companies against the S&P 500. The findings showed that investment in these companies – referred to as “The Stengle 50” – would be 400% more profitable in the last decade, from 2001-2011.

Zero Waste vs. 100% Resource Recovery
One person’s waste is another person’s business plan. Entrepreneurs today are looking for ways to turn waste into product opportunities. The article’s author asks you to consider this: French fry grease used to be difficult and expensive to dispose of – now it’s used to power vehicles. One way to unlock money-saving or profitable innovations like this – let your employees loose to explore ways they can turn company waste into treasure.

Panera, Others Are Planning More Pay-What-You-Can Cafes
It’s reassuring to know that consumers are willing to pay the same or more for goods when the company makes a commitment to help others in need. Proof of this comes from the success of Panera Bread Company’s pay-what-you-can cafes, where food is distributed to all patrons on a donation basis. With the pilot cafes showing many will pay the retail price or even a little extra, the concept has caught on, with Panera and other community organizations opening more stores with the model.

Cutting Through Cause Clutter with Incentives

Does your cause offer consumer incentives - like a coupon?

We’ve witnessed the mainstreaming of products and services that support causes in recent years for two reasons: consumers get feelings of goodwill for supporting a good cause, and companies see it as a proven strategy to attract more customers. The influx of cause players has left some customers drowning in pink – and some companies are willing to play hard ball to rise above the clutter. More companies today not only support a cause, but include an added incentive for shoppers to choose their “cause goods” over the rest.

Just check out the Cause Marketing Forum’s Cause Update feed, and you’ll notice many new campaigns in the marketplace include some sort of benefit for consumers to take part.

  • Macy’s 9th annual campaign with Go Red for Women not only offers a line of dresses where 10% of the purchase price is donated to the American Heart Association, the retailer also offers a 10% or 20% discount to shoppers wearing red.

We know that when price and quality are equal, consumers will choose a product or service that is aligned with a good cause over one that is not. Clearly, Americans love shopping for cause products because they get the added benefit of feeling good about supporting a nonprofit. But when competition is tough, those warm and fuzzy feelings alone may not motivate consumers to choose one cause over the other.

There’s something about a concrete incentive that motivates consumers to take action, even when there isn’t cause competition. Consider Newman’s Own – a clear cause leader in its category – which decided to incentivize consumers to volunteer by offering a coupon for its products when consumers register for a project on its site. The company used a traditional marketing incentive – a coupon – to get consumers involved in a high-engagement cause activity.

Such incentives raise the bar for all companies making a commitment to causes – it’s no longer just about transactional donations, it’s about putting additional brand assets on the line to encourage participation. What are your thoughts about incentivizing consumers to do good? Share your thoughts below!