2017: The Year of Corporate Social Responsibility

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When it comes to the corporate social responsibility, we are seeing clear and positive trends. Last year, charitable giving hit a record for a second year in a row at an estimated $373.25 billion, corporate giving reached $18.45 billion, an increase of 3.9 percent year-over-year, and employee participation in their companies’ community efforts has continued to rise, and last year reached 33 percent.

As we continue to ride into 2017, this is the perfect time to consider your corporate social responsibility efforts. Are your efforts meeting industry trends? If not, how will you positively impact your local and global community?

Here are five corporate social responsibility predictions that we're seeing come to life in 2017:

1) Sustainable Development Goals integration

In 2015 the United Nations introduced the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) aimed at reaching a desired situation in 2030. As opposed to the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs already got huge exposure in the media and amongst thought leaders. In 2016 we already saw the first companies experimenting with the goals’ implementation. In 2017 we expect more organizations to integrate the SDGs in their strategies, targets, and action plans.

2) The rise of the B-Corp

Certified B Corporations are social enterprises verified by B-Lab, a nonprofit organization. B Lab certifies companies based on how they create value for non-shareholding stakeholders, such as their employees, the local community, and the environment. Once a firm crosses a certain performance threshold on these dimensions, it makes amendments to its corporate charter to incorporate the interests of all stakeholders into the fiduciary duties of directors and officers. These steps demonstrate that a firm is following a fundamentally different governance philosophy than a traditional shareholder-centered corporation.

Identifying as a B corporation is a way to publicly claim an identity as an organization interested in both shareholder and stakeholder success. Having a clear identity can help firms communicate their values to customers, which is particularly beneficial when they are claiming an identity different from the industry norm.

3) Targeted stakeholder communication

Stakeholder engagement remains high on corporate agendas. It is a key element for business to cope with constantly changing dynamic environments and conditions. An online report combined with suitable communication tools, such as feeds, online marketing, tailored websites, etc., will make sure that you interact with all stakeholders and that stakeholders will receive relevant information. We expect this trend to be reflected more and more in company reports and their communication.

4) No measurement? No return.

The importance of measurement will continue to grow in 2017. We will see continued demand for measuring and reporting the results of grants, community partnerships, and employee programs. Also, aligning results with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals will gain more attention and will factor into storytelling, particularly with the growing importance of public-private partnerships in business. In the end, organizations must have the infrastructure in place to connect the dots on measurement, impact and storytelling across the entirety of their corporate social responsibility, sustainability, public relations, marketing, HR, and investor relations efforts.

5) Tech-Forward

In order to facilitate more employee participation, build better partnerships and support increasingly robust reporting requirements, corporate social responsibility software will continue to grow in importance as a core enterprise technology need. To meet the demands of their stakeholders, corporations need a technology platform from which to organize their employee giving and volunteering, tie all of their disparate corporate social responsibility efforts together, measure and report on their efforts, and tell their impact stories. And just as the private sector has adopted cloud-based and mobile solutions to manage other aspects of the business, corporate social responsibility will continue to follow.

The notion of corporate responsibility has evolved beyond traditional “checkbook philanthropy”— where checks were written each year to disparate causes and organizations; employees likely didn’t participate in or even know about these donations; and no one ever knew what that money actually did. Today, corporate social responsibility is transforming to become results-based, impact-focused, and inclusive to engage employees in ways that are meaningful to them. Companies and employees want their efforts to have an impact, and they want to know what that impact is.