The goal of CSR is to nurture a culture of responsible corporate citizenship. Yet, when defining your actionable roadmap for the coming quarter, a surface-level grasp of CSR won’t suffice. You need a grounded approach to setting, prioritizing, and achieving CSR goals.
Jaimie Vargas, the Head of Social Impact at Electronic Arts (EA), brings a refreshing perspective to this narrative. At EA, the mission of fostering positive societal change is a collective endeavor, not confined to a specific department. As Vargas says, “Everybody’s on the social impact team. Social impact is a part of all of our jobs, despite where we sit in our day-to-day functionality.”
Setting CSR priorities should reflect the reality that everyone has a stake in your social impact program. Vargas encourages companies to co-create CSR goals—seeing CSR strategy as a collaborative venture that pools insights from business leaders, employees, and the community alike.
This co-creative approach dissolves the traditional silos often seen in CSR goal-setting, encouraging a diversity of perspectives. It’s not about watering down objectives to meet a middle ground, but rather amplifying the impact through collective wisdom, ensuring that CSR goals serve the interests of all the stakeholders involved.
Use a co-creative approach
The concept of “care-abouts,” as introduced by Jaimie Vargas, takes center stage when discussing co-creative CSR strategy. It’s about identifying and understanding what matters most to each stakeholder group involved: the business, its employees, and its community.
The co-creative approach harmonizes these care-abouts into a cohesive CSR strategy that not only resonates with all stakeholders, but also serves as the driver of your company’s social impact.
Business “care-abouts” are objectives that directly impact the company’s bottom line and operational efficiency. Look to your board of directors for direction on the company’s CSR priorities—these might include sustainable supply chain management, ethical sourcing, and compliance with regulatory and legal frameworks.
Additionally, a business may care about its brand reputation and how CSR initiatives can bolster a positive public image—which in turn, can drive employee and customer loyalty, and open new market opportunities.
Employee “care-abouts” are the causes and missions that your employees see as important to improving society. These may vary widely from company to company, since they’re determined by the employees who contribute to your specific organization. You can explore your company’s employee “care-abouts” by listening to your employee resource groups and conducting pulse surveys.
“Employee resource groups are important influential stakeholders to guide and shape what social impact work looks like,” says Vargas. “The passion, the ideas that employee resource groups are bringing to create a space that represents how employees want to show up in a company—it’s the same kind of thinking, I think, that can be applied to how the company wants to show up in the community at large.”
Most importantly, employees value corporate transparency, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging. Being involved in co-creating your CSR strategy can foster all of these. By aligning CSR goals with employee care-abouts, businesses can enhance job satisfaction, retain talent, and foster a collective culture of social responsibility from within.
Community “care-abouts” reflect the broader societal impact of a business on the community around it. These may encompass issues like local economic development, environmental action, education and skill development, and support for underprivileged groups.
Through a co-creative approach, businesses can engage with the community to understand and address these care-abouts in their CSR strategy. Research and connect with local NGOs or nonprofits that already are in tune with what their communities need. Invite them to let your company know how it can show up for the community. This not only builds a strong bond with the community, but also enriches the social value of your business.
Tap into your company’s unique superpower
With all of these different “care-abouts,” how do you determine what matters most? It’s all about balance, and relying on your company’s mission for guidance.
EA’s mission, Vargas mentions, is “inspiring the world to play.” When thinking about how this extends to social impact, Vargas says that the company’s purpose helped illuminate how to show up authentically, in a way that makes sense for the company, its employees, and the community.
“It’s about using that power of play to create positive change in all of the spaces where we live, work, and play—and bringing that to the world of STEAM education,” says Vargas. “And thinking about how we create strong, healthy communities where everyone can thrive, where everyone has access and opportunity to play.”
This ideology serves as a lens through which EA navigates its social impact, aligning its unique corporate identity with broader CSR objectives.
The key takeaway here is to identify and leverage what’s intrinsic and unique about your company while setting and prioritizing CSR goals. This unique essence forms the common ground where the interests of the business, employees, and the community intersect. Since the concept of “play” sits at the crux of everyone’s careabouts, it helped EA decide to prioritize “play” in its CSR goals.
However, it’s not practical to think that there’s a strategy that answers everyone’s “care-abouts” equally.
“Companies can’t show up in every single way that employees demand. It’s just not possible to show up for all the issues that are out there,” Vargas says. “And it may not be the right way, frankly, for a company to show up in every issue. But it is important to listen and learn.”
While your co-created CSR strategy might be pulled in various directions by different stakeholder “care-abouts,” it’s pivotal to remain anchored to what’s authentic to your company’s core mission. This not only helps in prioritizing some goals over others, but also in ensuring genuine and impactful CSR.
Borrow these CSR goals
Crafting actionable and impactful CSR goals requires a blend of introspection, stakeholder engagement, and alignment with your company’s core values.
Here are some CSR goal examples that could resonate across different sectors:
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Increase sustainability in supply chain management
- Build relationships through community outreach
- Improve employee wellbeing
- Create opportunities for employee development
- Support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
- Improve quality of life for community members
- Support innovation for nonprofits
- Gain insights that will shape product development
- Create self-sustaining volunteer programs
CSR is a pride center
CSR is more than a box to check off, or a revenue generator: it’s a sweet spot where your company’s unique capabilities and core values intersect with social impact. CSR is about weaving the narrative of social responsibility into the fabric of your company’s identity.
That’s why Vargas says executives and social impact teams should embrace CSR as a “pride center,” rather than a cost center. It’s a function that might not generate profits, but it fosters pride and shared purpose.
And because great CSR represents pride in who you are as a company and a workforce, it’s inherent that your CSR goals reflect a broad set of stakeholder views, both in and out of the company.
For a more in-depth look at all things CSR strategy, check out the full panel discussion on Impact Studio. Join Jaimie Vargas and a panel of seasoned CSR leaders as they unravel the nuances of CSR goals, and the role of CSR in your company.