Q&A: The World of CSR, part two

  • Written by Alexandra Frazier

On Tuesday, CSR queen and CreateAthon Executive Director Peyton Rowe answered our questions concerning what corporate social responsibility entails and how it can vary from company to company. In part two of our interview, we chat with Peyton about CSR’s implementation in the workplace and its positive impact on corporate morale.

Q: What are a few of the unique ways that companies are bringing CSR into the workplace?

A: Companies are becoming increasingly diverse in the scope and execution of their CSR offerings. And the great thing about CSR in the workplace is that it’s being recognized in big ways. For example, PR News annually recognizes top companies in Corporate Social Responsibility in 25 different categories.

One award is given to a company with the most innovative implementation of social good actions into the workplace culture. AT&T was recognized this year for its “Do One Thing” (DOT) program. The program, which rolled out in May 2011, is designed to educate employees about sustainability, boost internal understanding of AT&T’s commitment to social and environmental good, and create a simple way for interested employees to get involved in sustainability efforts. AT&T created an easy-to-use internal communications network and provided tools to help employees take action. This kind of program represents a huge shift in focus away from giving money to organizations to solving problems. Programs like “Do One Thing” are changing the ways businesses work to be more socially conscious, both internally and externally.

Other categories in the PR News awards recognize unique programs that work to implement social change. Last June, the Walt Disney Company rolled out the Mickey Check, a new tool that makes it easier to identify nutritious choices in stores, online, and while on vacation at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The nutritional tool now appears on Disney-licensed food products sold at retail stores, as well as on qualifying recipes on Disney.com and Family.com, among other media properties. Social media support of this tool has been phenomenal and has resulted in increased pressure on other food chains to implement these tools.

A final category that is close to my heart is the Pro Bono Campaign. Discovery Communications won this category

for “Discovery Impact: Creating Change,” a program inspired by CreateAthon. “Discovery Impact” is a 12-hour pro-bono marathon event that takes place in both the Silver Spring and London offices. During the event, employees take on creative, marketing, IT, and communications projects for global nonprofit organizations. In addition to this year’s marathon, Discovery employees hosted nearly 150 nonprofit representatives (all of whom

were “Discovery Impact” applicants) at Discovery’s global headquarters in Silver Spring and its European headquarters in London for a conference to discuss key issues around mission, communications, marketing goals, and media vision.

Q: What are the benefits of CSR for employees? For employers?

A: CSR is critical in today’s business culture. First, recent graduates who are the next new employees are demanding to work at places that are socially conscious and engaged in an authentic way with their communities. Second, CSR programs, and skills-based volunteer efforts in particular, are outstanding ways to allow new employees to develop their leadership and job skills professionally. These programs can be professional development opportunities that offer training to employees that serve the nonprofit or organization but can then be applied to the corporations’ initiatives. Third, countless studies have shown that engaged employees are better employees. Just look at this animation of Daniel Pink’s talk about what really motivates us:

CSR is not money, but challenge, mastery and purpose. These keys drive employee motivation, and providing these opportunities for employees is critical for the success of businesses.

This movement is so critical, that Aaron Hurst, founder of the Taproot Foundation, a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society, is now CEO of Imperative.

This company’s goal is to really change the nature of work, redefining success in both individual’s minds and, ultimately, corporations’ minds, by measuring the quality of what is created, not just how much money it makes. They are looking to legitimize what Aaron Hurst calls the Purpose Economy, a place where “the organizations that thrive will embrace purpose in how they work as well as in their products, services and relationships.”