Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Corporate foundations and philanthropy can work for nature centric business models


The mix can not only boost the competitive landscape, but also increase brand affinity.

Can a nature purpose-centered businesses use corporate foundations and philanthropy as part of their purpose-oriented mindset? If that's the case, how does it affect recruitment, retention, employee satisfaction, and productivity? The quick answer is yes. The longer response is layered.

Companies frequently want to make sure that their purpose isn't confused with philanthropy, old-school CSR, or more modern thinking about corporate responsibility and ESG. At the same time, more forward-thinking businesses align philanthropy with business issues and develop employee engagement programs that are more robust and impactful than volunteers in t-shirts once a year.

Whether philanthropy improves recruitment depends on the program and how it is used. The Cisco Networking Academy and Amex's Travel and Tourism Academies not only improve the competitive landscape, but also increase brand affinity. That's probably the closest analogy to what we're talking about. Salesforce definitely uses its 1-1-1 model as a recruiting advantage, in part because it exemplifies the company's ohana culture. A much smaller group of eye-catching companies, such as Warby Parker, rely on philanthropy to advance their mission, which they effectively use to attract talent.

The extent to which philanthropy translates into employee engagement outcomes can be influenced by what we mean by philanthropy and how it is implemented. Critically, philanthropy cannot appear as a "bolt on" or as an attempt to provide public relations cover for a problematic culture or business practices. Genuine efforts can pay off: a meta-analysis conducted by a team formerly affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce discovered that aligned programs can increase employee engagement by 13% and reduce churn by up to 50%. Programs that achieve those outcomes have set a high standard.

Philanthropy is deeply integrated into all aspects of the employee experience at the most successful companies. Campbell has mapped the employee journey, and one of the "moments that matter" is giving (writ large). Others incorporate giving into their EVP, which may be most effective when combined with stand-out benefits such as gameified giving (Kellogg had a fun "final 4" style competition during the pandemic), strong matching gift programs (Soros Fund Management matches up to $100,000 annually per employee, offering 3:1 matching for employees), and donations for do-ers programs (Apple matches $50 per hour volunteered with a one-hour minimum).

Intel donates $10 to the nonprofit for each hour after the first 20, with a cap of $15,000 for schools and $10,000 for other nonprofits, and above the median of 8 hours paid time off to volunteer. Novo Nordisk, for example, provides 80 hours of paid volunteer time. Other companies highlight their volunteer sabbaticals or travel opportunities, such as J&J, which provides two weeks of volunteer leave, with one week fully paid, and Patagonia's conservation trips to (yes, Patagonia).

Some companies, such as PwC, use volunteering as part of their leadership development programs, such as assembling teams with diverse management and financial skills to consult with nonprofits (and, occasionally, vet NGOs for their corporate giving efforts) or enlisting high-po talent to lead volunteer programs.

Since 2008, IBM Service Corps participants have served on 275 teams in nearly 40 countries, delivering $70 million in market value on 1K projects. Accenture Development Partnerships place employees with non-governmental organizations for up to six months. Toyota Production Systems Support Center (TSSC) has collaborated with Children's Health to improve patient safety and care, resulting in a 75% reduction in central line-associated bloodstream infections.

Companies are increasingly linking philanthropy and employee engagement to their DEI commitments, involving ERNs in program activation (and, to a lesser degree, program design). Comcast For example, NBCUniversal connects its ERGs and volunteer portal.

They communicate the connection to their values and culture, and they keep people engaged through internal communications, people manager awareness, and alignment. Companies frequently incorporate team-building elements. While not limited to volunteerism, one example I like comes from consulting firm Solstice, which has an extra PTO day dubbed Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The only stipulation? Employees must do something spectacular.

As part of its nearly 20-year commitment to the cause of early childhood education through its Grow Up Great signature program, PNC Financial Services is very deliberate in offering both individual and team-based volunteer opportunities. It discovered that employees who participated in their (extremely robust) initiative were 7x more engaged at work. Other studies have found similar results.

According to a Deloitte survey, 89% of employees believe that companies that sponsor volunteer activities provide a better overall working environment, 70% believe that volunteer activities are more likely to boost staff morale than company-sponsored happy hours, and more than three-quarters believe that volunteering is essential to employee well-being.

According to the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM), 93% of employees who volunteer through their company are satisfied with their employer.

The alignment with corporate purpose and strategy contributes to some of the impact. Humana's vision is to assist people in achieving lifelong wellbeing, which includes living happily with a balanced sense of purpose in addition to physical health.

This is brought to life by Humana's Bold Goal, which is to improve the health of the communities they serve by 20% by 2020 (since updated) and includes their employee volunteer strategy – clearly linked to a larger purpose. Companies like Biogen even tie a portion of executive compensation to ESG, and employee engagement is one of their key performance indicators.

While the examples above can produce powerful results, it takes time and real commitment.