CSR News

Industry Leaders on the Current State of CSR

We had a conversation with three CSR industry leaders about the current state of CSR and how they expect it to continue to transform over the next few years.
By
Vanessa Poulson
|
12.12.2022
Lorem ipsum sit dolor et sua vous.
CSR News

Industry Leaders on the Current State of CSR

We had a conversation with three CSR industry leaders about the current state of CSR and how they expect it to continue to transform over the next few years.
By
Vanessa Poulson
|
16.11.2022
Lorem ipsum sit dolor et sua vous.

The world of CSR and social impact is rapidly transforming. Whether it’s initiatives focused on up-skilling underserved communities, skills-based volunteering, or sustainability, CSR is encompassing a more diverse range of programming than ever before.  

We had a conversation with three CSR industry leaders about the current state of CSR and how they expect it to continue to transform over the next few years. 

Chris Jarvis - Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer, Realized Worth 

Chris Jarvis is a co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Realized Worth, a consulting firm focused on the design and implementation of transformative employee volunteering and giving initiatives. His work with organizations of all sizes from around the world is helping mobilize employees to make meaningful contributions in the communities where they live and work.

What have you observed as the largest change in CSR within the last few years?

Without question, the most significant shift in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the rise of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) as the dominant framework directing private sector investments in social and environmental projects. Over half of the companies we work with, or have worked with, have moved to re-brand and reconfigure their CSR, social impact and philanthropic efforts into this new framework.

ESG, unlike CSR, is an investor tool to assess the risks associated with social and environmental impacts on the company’s ability to make a profit. The former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, initiated the shift by inviting 50 CEOs of large financial firms to integrate ESG metrics and data into capital markets. This effort resulted in the publication of the report “Who Cares Wins.” The adoption of ESG was broad and fast: “At the time, 63 investment companies composed of asset owners, asset managers and service providers signed with $6.5 trillion in assets under management (AUM) incorporating ESG issues. As of June 2019, there are 2450 signatories representing over $80 trillion in AUM.”

While a helpful tool for investors seeking portfolios with less risk and better transparency and governance, ESG offers little towards the future of the planet. And recasting CSR teams as ESG teams moves the effort from a forward-thinking perspective of positive impact to a quarterly perspective of risk mitigation. And, without exception, much of the investments of companies into social and environmental issues remain unrecognized by ESG as they do not mitigate risk to the company’s operation.

There are a few efforts to address this growing issue and the concerns of many CSR professionals who feel they now have a different job and mandate. But there is quite a bit of work to do to ensure that we do not derail the great momentum we were seeing in the CSR field.

What do you think is the most important insight for organizations to keep in mind as they expand or refine their CSR initiatives?

The ‘change’ or difference we hope to see happen as a result of CSR initiatives is not sustained by the size of the financial contributions or the level of activity the initiative produces. These are critical elements to be sure. Rather these efforts are sustained by the internalized beliefs held by the employees and leadership that participate in the actions. 

Meaning, a company can have a great program with many sizable outputs but if the people at the company are not participating and learning as part of the process it can easily disappear because of leadership change or business priorities. If employees have the opportunity to internalize the ‘change’ in the way they see themselves, in what they believe and how they behave, that is a sustainable and impactful result.

How do you see CSR transforming in the next year? 

Looking ahead to 2023 I don’t anticipate much of a transformation in the CSR field.

I do see an increasing tension between the immediate and backward looking ESG as a financial reporting tool and the forward, long-term CSR perspective of social and environmental investments to improve or even save our planet.

I’m unsure how this may resolve, but for many CSR (now ESG) teams it may be a confusing and frustrating year.

Deevee Kashi - Co-Founder & CEO at Deed

Deevee Kashi is co-founder and CEO of Deed, a workplace giving and volunteering platform that puts people first, because user experience shouldn’t stand between you and doing good. Deevee is many things: an activist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a polyglot, and a New Yorker. He studied philosophy at New York University, which remains a passion today (one he's all too willing to discuss with you).

What have you observed as the largest change in CSR within the last few years?

There is a change of approach, from reactive CSR to proactive CSR, that has been transformative. 

Many executives used to see sustainability as just a cost-cutting measure, and social equity as a way to protect the company from liability. Now, ambitious leaders are using CSR to make their organizations more resilient to financial and operational risk—but also to leverage their resources for good and generate real value at the same time.

What does it mean to truly add value to your organization? More and more execs are asking that question, and they have the good sense to see that the blockbuster commitments we’re all making to CSR need to be broken down into concrete environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets. At the same time, there is zero alignment across the industry about what measurement protocol to follow. There are over 600 different ESG measurement tools out there right now. Nevertheless, we’re getting results—purpose-driven companies are seeing 30 percent greater innovation and 40 percent stronger retention (that’s Deloitte). The latchkey to it all is authentic employee engagement—people want their voices heard on the causes that matter to them, and our orgs need all the creativity we can get to tackle big, complex problems. 

“Let me stress this: metrics matter, progress matters, big goals matter. But the absolute most important thing is to maintain an intersectional, collaborative, community-focused approach on the issues that matter.” 

The only way we’ll get there is by empowering all our people to share their diverse passions, thoughts, and identities as part of a culture defined by its social and environmental impact. The change we all want to see in the world will follow as a matter of course. I am thrilled to see so many companies—Airbnb, for example, which is having its best year yet, despite the pandemic and tech industry downturn—are already seeing incredible results. 

What do you think is the most important insight for organizations to keep in mind as they expand or refine their CSR initiatives?

The most important insight is really a question orgs should be asking themselves: On what cause(s) are we uniquely positioned to act? We’ve got to take every opportunity to secure buy-in from all of our stakeholders—employees, consumers, investors, local communities, and more. I know it’s difficult to parse a clear, unified plan after listening to many equally important perspectives, but every group of internal and external stakeholders has a valuable point of view and a specific set of ethical and financial incentives, and it’s important to find broad alignment for all by focusing on your organization’s core superpower. I believe that bringing diversity of thought and identity together with sharp management focus is the only way to make social impact as authentic and meaningful as possible. 

How do you see CSR transforming in the next year? 

It’s time to stop playing defense when it comes to ESG. Recent polls suggest that almost half of CFOs will actually increase their spending on social/environmental impact in 2023 compared to 2022. We’re not talking about small companies—these are the major institutions that set the tone for the global economy. I think that show of confidence sends a strong message. I expect that the companies who double down on making a real impact will be better positioned to not just weather the current economic downturn, but to use this challenging, even painful time as an opportunity to bring the core functions of their business closer in line with their visions for a better world. 

Nina Rauch - Head of Social Impact Lead of Lemonade

At age sixteen, Nina founded a breast cancer charity in memory of her late mother - that sparked her passion for social impact, and making a dent in the universe. In 2018, Nina joined insurtech Lemonade as Head of Social Impact. Lemonade partners with nonprofits that reflect both the causes that customers care about and the stands that the company has taken. To date, Nina has distributed over $6M to impactful nonprofits across the globe.

What have you observed as the largest change in CSR within the last few years?

It used to be that a brand’s social impact was an afterthought. People thought of purpose as something that can only be spoken about once a company is already successful. But now there is an expectation to build impact into your brand from the very beginning, ensuring that for-profits remain accountable and paving the way for a more responsible future. 

What do you think is the most important insight for organizations to keep in mind as they expand or refine their CSR initiatives?

The most important thing organizations need to keep in mind as they expand CSR is to remain authentic. 

Consumers are smart—and they’ll know when a brand’s impact is inauthentic. Make sure your social impact makes sense for your company and your product. The impact and brand link should be obvious: Why do you support that organization? Why did you donate to that cause? Why did you speak up for that issue? If you’re not sure, then it’s the wrong mission. True impact requires being upfront and genuine about what we think “good” is and is not.

Work with nonprofits to facilitate donations, support their campaigns, and organize volunteering events—that are genuine and authentic to your company—and you’ll be on your way to engaging this influential group of consumers. 

The insurance company I now work for, Lemonade, has built donating to charity into its profit model. Policyholders choose a cause to donate their unclaimed premium to, making customers de facto donors who can contribute to causes they truly care about. 

How do you see CSR transforming in the next year? 

With fewer people donating to charity than previous years, it is clear that cultivating the next generation of donors is the lifeblood of the future of the non-profit movement. In the meantime, we must find a new way to give back - and CSR might just be the answer. 

Keep Up With the Transforming World of CSR

To learn about how you can create empowering and impactful CSR programs that lead the transforming world of CSR, talk to us.

‍ Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on the latest in CSR, social responsibility, and corporate leadership news and events.

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CSR News

Industry Leaders on the Current State of CSR

We had a conversation with three CSR industry leaders about the current state of CSR and how they expect it to continue to transform over the next few years.

Vanessa Poulson
December 12, 2022

The world of CSR and social impact is rapidly transforming. Whether it’s initiatives focused on up-skilling underserved communities, skills-based volunteering, or sustainability, CSR is encompassing a more diverse range of programming than ever before.  

We had a conversation with three CSR industry leaders about the current state of CSR and how they expect it to continue to transform over the next few years. 

Chris Jarvis - Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer, Realized Worth 

Chris Jarvis is a co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Realized Worth, a consulting firm focused on the design and implementation of transformative employee volunteering and giving initiatives. His work with organizations of all sizes from around the world is helping mobilize employees to make meaningful contributions in the communities where they live and work.

What have you observed as the largest change in CSR within the last few years?

Without question, the most significant shift in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the rise of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) as the dominant framework directing private sector investments in social and environmental projects. Over half of the companies we work with, or have worked with, have moved to re-brand and reconfigure their CSR, social impact and philanthropic efforts into this new framework.

ESG, unlike CSR, is an investor tool to assess the risks associated with social and environmental impacts on the company’s ability to make a profit. The former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, initiated the shift by inviting 50 CEOs of large financial firms to integrate ESG metrics and data into capital markets. This effort resulted in the publication of the report “Who Cares Wins.” The adoption of ESG was broad and fast: “At the time, 63 investment companies composed of asset owners, asset managers and service providers signed with $6.5 trillion in assets under management (AUM) incorporating ESG issues. As of June 2019, there are 2450 signatories representing over $80 trillion in AUM.”

While a helpful tool for investors seeking portfolios with less risk and better transparency and governance, ESG offers little towards the future of the planet. And recasting CSR teams as ESG teams moves the effort from a forward-thinking perspective of positive impact to a quarterly perspective of risk mitigation. And, without exception, much of the investments of companies into social and environmental issues remain unrecognized by ESG as they do not mitigate risk to the company’s operation.

There are a few efforts to address this growing issue and the concerns of many CSR professionals who feel they now have a different job and mandate. But there is quite a bit of work to do to ensure that we do not derail the great momentum we were seeing in the CSR field.

What do you think is the most important insight for organizations to keep in mind as they expand or refine their CSR initiatives?

The ‘change’ or difference we hope to see happen as a result of CSR initiatives is not sustained by the size of the financial contributions or the level of activity the initiative produces. These are critical elements to be sure. Rather these efforts are sustained by the internalized beliefs held by the employees and leadership that participate in the actions. 

Meaning, a company can have a great program with many sizable outputs but if the people at the company are not participating and learning as part of the process it can easily disappear because of leadership change or business priorities. If employees have the opportunity to internalize the ‘change’ in the way they see themselves, in what they believe and how they behave, that is a sustainable and impactful result.

How do you see CSR transforming in the next year? 

Looking ahead to 2023 I don’t anticipate much of a transformation in the CSR field.

I do see an increasing tension between the immediate and backward looking ESG as a financial reporting tool and the forward, long-term CSR perspective of social and environmental investments to improve or even save our planet.

I’m unsure how this may resolve, but for many CSR (now ESG) teams it may be a confusing and frustrating year.

Deevee Kashi - Co-Founder & CEO at Deed

Deevee Kashi is co-founder and CEO of Deed, a workplace giving and volunteering platform that puts people first, because user experience shouldn’t stand between you and doing good. Deevee is many things: an activist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a polyglot, and a New Yorker. He studied philosophy at New York University, which remains a passion today (one he's all too willing to discuss with you).

What have you observed as the largest change in CSR within the last few years?

There is a change of approach, from reactive CSR to proactive CSR, that has been transformative. 

Many executives used to see sustainability as just a cost-cutting measure, and social equity as a way to protect the company from liability. Now, ambitious leaders are using CSR to make their organizations more resilient to financial and operational risk—but also to leverage their resources for good and generate real value at the same time.

What does it mean to truly add value to your organization? More and more execs are asking that question, and they have the good sense to see that the blockbuster commitments we’re all making to CSR need to be broken down into concrete environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets. At the same time, there is zero alignment across the industry about what measurement protocol to follow. There are over 600 different ESG measurement tools out there right now. Nevertheless, we’re getting results—purpose-driven companies are seeing 30 percent greater innovation and 40 percent stronger retention (that’s Deloitte). The latchkey to it all is authentic employee engagement—people want their voices heard on the causes that matter to them, and our orgs need all the creativity we can get to tackle big, complex problems. 

“Let me stress this: metrics matter, progress matters, big goals matter. But the absolute most important thing is to maintain an intersectional, collaborative, community-focused approach on the issues that matter.” 

The only way we’ll get there is by empowering all our people to share their diverse passions, thoughts, and identities as part of a culture defined by its social and environmental impact. The change we all want to see in the world will follow as a matter of course. I am thrilled to see so many companies—Airbnb, for example, which is having its best year yet, despite the pandemic and tech industry downturn—are already seeing incredible results. 

What do you think is the most important insight for organizations to keep in mind as they expand or refine their CSR initiatives?

The most important insight is really a question orgs should be asking themselves: On what cause(s) are we uniquely positioned to act? We’ve got to take every opportunity to secure buy-in from all of our stakeholders—employees, consumers, investors, local communities, and more. I know it’s difficult to parse a clear, unified plan after listening to many equally important perspectives, but every group of internal and external stakeholders has a valuable point of view and a specific set of ethical and financial incentives, and it’s important to find broad alignment for all by focusing on your organization’s core superpower. I believe that bringing diversity of thought and identity together with sharp management focus is the only way to make social impact as authentic and meaningful as possible. 

How do you see CSR transforming in the next year? 

It’s time to stop playing defense when it comes to ESG. Recent polls suggest that almost half of CFOs will actually increase their spending on social/environmental impact in 2023 compared to 2022. We’re not talking about small companies—these are the major institutions that set the tone for the global economy. I think that show of confidence sends a strong message. I expect that the companies who double down on making a real impact will be better positioned to not just weather the current economic downturn, but to use this challenging, even painful time as an opportunity to bring the core functions of their business closer in line with their visions for a better world. 

Nina Rauch - Head of Social Impact Lead of Lemonade

At age sixteen, Nina founded a breast cancer charity in memory of her late mother - that sparked her passion for social impact, and making a dent in the universe. In 2018, Nina joined insurtech Lemonade as Head of Social Impact. Lemonade partners with nonprofits that reflect both the causes that customers care about and the stands that the company has taken. To date, Nina has distributed over $6M to impactful nonprofits across the globe.

What have you observed as the largest change in CSR within the last few years?

It used to be that a brand’s social impact was an afterthought. People thought of purpose as something that can only be spoken about once a company is already successful. But now there is an expectation to build impact into your brand from the very beginning, ensuring that for-profits remain accountable and paving the way for a more responsible future. 

What do you think is the most important insight for organizations to keep in mind as they expand or refine their CSR initiatives?

The most important thing organizations need to keep in mind as they expand CSR is to remain authentic. 

Consumers are smart—and they’ll know when a brand’s impact is inauthentic. Make sure your social impact makes sense for your company and your product. The impact and brand link should be obvious: Why do you support that organization? Why did you donate to that cause? Why did you speak up for that issue? If you’re not sure, then it’s the wrong mission. True impact requires being upfront and genuine about what we think “good” is and is not.

Work with nonprofits to facilitate donations, support their campaigns, and organize volunteering events—that are genuine and authentic to your company—and you’ll be on your way to engaging this influential group of consumers. 

The insurance company I now work for, Lemonade, has built donating to charity into its profit model. Policyholders choose a cause to donate their unclaimed premium to, making customers de facto donors who can contribute to causes they truly care about. 

How do you see CSR transforming in the next year? 

With fewer people donating to charity than previous years, it is clear that cultivating the next generation of donors is the lifeblood of the future of the non-profit movement. In the meantime, we must find a new way to give back - and CSR might just be the answer. 

Keep Up With the Transforming World of CSR

To learn about how you can create empowering and impactful CSR programs that lead the transforming world of CSR, talk to us.

‍ Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on the latest in CSR, social responsibility, and corporate leadership news and events.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vanessa Poulson

As lead of The Impact Report, Poulson focuses on developing Paragon One’s industry insight into the expanding world of CSR, ESG, and social impact.

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