Effective programs that deliver.
That’s what shines through in moments of crisis. When times get tough, communities are looking for no-nonsense, practical efforts that offer vital services and meet needs.
When organizations have active and robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, they’re better able to activate and retool those programs if disaster strikes. Starting from zero is incredibly difficult for companies looking to begin or greatly scale up CSR operations in the middle of difficult scenarios.
The organizations that deliver real social impact amidst global and regional crises are those that can simply point their existing resources toward new problems that arise and shift their processes to new goals.
Below, we’ll look at the benefits of having an efficient and functioning CSR program up and running by showcasing the organizations that are already winning when it comes to CSR. By tying their brand to their CSR missions, having solid processes in place, and thinking out of the corporate giving box, they’ve made strides in corporate philanthropy that are worth emulating and learning from.
Corporate giving can change the way that consumers look at your brand, your bottom line, and your long-term goals and mission as a company. And as the coronavirus pandemic pushes many organizations to quickly evaluate and muster new corporate grants and CSR programs, it’s more important than ever to learn from established and effective CSR programs.
Companies that stand out as shining CSR examples
Examples of great CSR are not hard to find.
In fact, many instances of effective corporate social responsibility are happening all around us. Take Starbucks for example, a massive global company that has incorporated impact-on-society metrics into its core business activities.
Another example is Procter & Gamble. They launched their Ambition 2030 program—putting them on offense in terms of leveraging CSR as a public relations tool while also creating a sense of public accountability for key environmental stewardship goals.
Many other companies have followed suit.
When organizations build their CSR campaigns around an authentic purpose that’s directly linked to brand values and its internal resources, big change can happen, both for the companies and for the world around them.
When companies act based on that shared purpose, they tap into a range of emotions—such as trust and engagement—that connect them with customers in a more profound way.
This also helps with the recruitment and retention of your employees, especially the younger generation.
Beyond the performance of CSR is the measurement of it. Modern consumers expect companies to turn a profit and affect change in communities while demonstrating how they did it. They don’t want gestures or effort, they want results and real impact.
Let’s dive deeper into further examples of powerful CSR in practice:
Method: Walking the walk
Tyler Butler is a founder and CEO with over 15 years’ experience creating and executing global giving campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. When asked which companies she admires for their CSR efforts, she didn’t hesitate.
Method was one of her top choices and with good reason.
“This company is executing on their long term ambition to help restore the planet’s natural resources and benefit communities while responsibly growing their business globally,” noted Butler.
Method is a B Corp based in New Zealand that has created more human-centered recycling systems that are more beautiful, flexible, effective, and visible. Its founders witnessed organizations with a desire to recycle but lacking the tools to recycle successfully.
Rather than change the players, they changed the game.
Method designs for recyclability with approaches such as creating product refills in place of new packaging where possible. They also use plastic that has been recovered from the planet’s oceans as part of their new products. Method’s products stand out and are less toxic and more friendly to the environment.
In other words, they live by their mission. Their processes reflect their values. Especially since they are in the business of recycling, everything they do in their business echoes those efforts. When you buy a Method bin, for example, you better believe it comes in a recycled cardboard box that says, “Recycle Me” on the outside.
Southwest Airlines: Measurement counts
When it comes to high-quality CSR, measurement is key.
That’s why Southwest Airlines stands out for its triple bottom line approach. By measuring the company’s impact on its own Performance, People, and the Planet, Southwest set a new standard for corporate transparency in reporting CSR results.
For example, it’s One Report identifies how many hours its team members have volunteered each year along with how many dollars the company has invested in local community organizations annually.
By putting forth clear benchmarks for CSR success, Southwest is asking its customers to hold it accountable for achieving real, measurable social impact.
D.light: Melding missions
As the Founder of Going Beyond Sustainability, Shel Horowitz has seen a lot of CSR campaigns. But he’s not afraid to pick favorites.
“One of my favorites is d.light, which makes solar LED lamps that replace toxic, flammable, expensive kerosene with safe, clean lights that never need fuel and provide better light,” Horowitz shared.
The fact that d.light’s products enable families to get ahead economically is a core reason their CSR efforts are so strong. They’re empowering for families and communities while being core to the organization’s mission.
That’s the sweet spot when it comes to top-notch CSR.
Gap: Change that starts with their practices
PACE is Gap’s initiative to educate millions of female factory workers in developing countries. The program tackles core skills like communication and financial literacy while also tackling important quality of life matters such as reproductive health.
As a strategic advisor for risk management, Pabon knows what companies are up against when they take on challenging CSR campaigns. For him, the PACE Program is an example of a company choosing the right problem to solve and executing its CSR programs effectively.
Pabon believes that “the most impressive CSR programs are sometimes those happening behind the scenes.” He notes that companies with large factory operations need to do well by their workers in order to function.
For Pabon, “some of the most impressive programs are female worker education programs” like PACE because of how they align with company business goals and serve a critical need at the same time.
H-E-B: CSR that looks to the future
When it comes to CSR as a crisis response, H-E-B is hard to beat.
The grocery chain’s disaster relief efforts in Texas after Hurricane Harvey proved crucial for community members during a time of dire need. For example, H-E-B dispatched its workers to serve hot meals to people impacted by the storm.
The company even employs a full-time Director of Disaster Preparedness, a position that ensures the company is able to get groceries to affected communities quickly and effectively. H-E-B also boasts emergency resources such as three mobile kitchens, a Disaster Relief Unit, and two water tankers—all of which can be deployed in a variety of ways during a crisis.
The most notable thing about H-E-B is that they are ready to solve problems that don’t even exist yet—their CSR focuses on future needs and is poised to jump into action when needed most.
This is one grocer that’s deftly using its CSR programs and thinking way ahead.
Microsoft: Across-the-board philanthropy
A lot has been said about the foundation that Bill Gates runs with his wife, Melinda. Their impact through that philanthropic vehicle has been quite deep as well as wide.
But Amanda Ponzar of Community Health Charities would like to direct your attention to Bill’s other big project, the CSR work going on within Microsoft the company.
Ponzar related that “Microsoft is one of my favorites as they leverage their technology, software, stores, and the STEM expertise of their employees for social good—to help everyone achieve more.”
It’s important to remember that Microsoft has “the largest workplace giving campaign in the world.” Such a program constitutes another generous way for corporations to give back—by matching the contributions of their employees.
Microsoft even has a special hiring program for people with autism as well as STEM education and skills training programs for adults and youth. Their big win when it comes to CSR is the alignment of the impact they desire to make in the world with what they’re good at as a company.
Patagonia: Breadth and depth of mission
Gregg Feistman has been teaching CSR strategies at Temple University for years. When it comes to top CSR performers, he’s quick to single out Patagonia for the sheer breadth of its CSR work.
Ranging from “their supply chains using sustainable resources to closing all stores on election day so their employees and customers can go to the polls,” Feistman is impressed with how Patagonia practices across-the-board CSR.
In 2019, the company even returned a $10 million tax cut to the government in an effort to help fight climate change. They’re an example of a brand that seems to live and breathe CSR.
While they’re making a big social impact each year, their customers are as loyal as ever to the brand.
Learning from great CSR examples and building a better platform for CSR campaigns
There’s a lot to learn from these top performers in CSR.
Whether it’s building your CSR program around an authentic purpose linked to your organizational values or integrating CSR into core business activities (and measuring it well), it’s safe to say that the practice of corporate social responsibility has matured greatly.
To help deal with the increasing complexity of effectively executing CSR campaigns, many companies are beginning to manage their CSR programs using a single, integrated platform to manage the work.
From organizing internal and external stakeholders to analyzing programmatic data, a modern platform for managing CSR can help to improve program efficacy and drive better results. Armed with more streamlined processes and better communication, organizations using such platforms can learn from their own CSR work and improve each year.
In other words, organizations can compete with themselves when it comes to enhancing their CSR work using software that helps them grow their impact.
That’s real change to strive for.