Feature

Industry Leaders on CSR’s Business Impact

We had a conversation with four CSR industry leaders about how CSR is influencing longterm business decisions and overall strategy.
By
Vanessa Poulson
|
12.23.2022
Lorem ipsum sit dolor et sua vous.
Feature

Industry Leaders on CSR’s Business Impact

We had a conversation with four CSR industry leaders about how CSR is influencing longterm business decisions and overall strategy.
By
Vanessa Poulson
|
16.11.2022
Lorem ipsum sit dolor et sua vous.

The world of CSR and social impact is changing how companies across all industries are conducting business. 

We had a conversation with four CSR industry leaders about how CSR is influencing longterm business decisions and overall strategy. 

Erin Mogel - Founder and CEO of Elevate Social Impact

Erin Mogel is a social impact leader and lifelong volunteer with extensive experience across the nonprofit (immigration, human rights, international development, healthcare) and corporate social responsibility sectors. Erin is passionate about empathetic leadership and promoting kindness in business. She is Founder + CEO of Elevate Social Impact, a consulting and coaching practice which guides companies, nonprofits, and individuals on their philanthropic journey.

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years?

Throughout the last five years, I have witnessed the shift from traditional corporate social responsibility to more of an emphasis on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).

While CSR has traditionally been focused on community investment (grantmaking) and employee engagement (employee giving and volunteering), we are now seeing a significant rise in ESG investing and sustainability practices.

CSR is self-regulated and focused on a company’s internal processes, values, and culture, whereas ESG is a framework which stakeholders (investors, consumers, and employees, to name a few) use to evaluate a company. In short, ESG would not exist without CSR, yet companies are moving away from a traditional CSR strategy in search for a framework which is quantifiable.

Now, more than ever, companies are looking to embed ESG into their business model in order to do well, give back to society, and mitigate risk.

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more critical part of business?

Companies should be open and malleable as CSR becomes a more important and urgent part of business. The sector is ever-evolving and there is now an expectation that companies commit to giving back and positively impacting people and the planet. It’s becoming more common for CSR to be embedded into a company’s mission and brand, and companies should aim to keep up with any trends and new strategies for making and measuring impact. Social impact and CSR are now mainstream household terms, and companies are feeling pressure to be involved and adapt as the sector changes.

No longer a nice to have, CSR is now a need to have, expected by consumers, stakeholders, employees, and suppliers alike. Purpose and sustainability are everything, and CSR is now a key component to a company’s strength and success.

How have these transformations changed businesses' attention to CSR and social impact?

It’s been amazing to see companies prioritize their social impact practices and understand that business can and should be a force for good. Regardless of your sector or size, social impact has a place in all companies. 

Here at Elevate Social Impact, we are committed to helping companies build out their social impact values, purpose, goals, and strategy to set them on the path towards social responsibility. After all, businesses are now understanding that CSR has substantial returns: it helps to attract and retain talent, enhances a company’s bottom line, improves collaboration and team-building, increases brand awareness, improves public image, and customers choose to align with businesses that are doing good for society. There are so many benefits to CSR, and the transformations in this sector have encouraged companies to place an emphasis on how they can give back and prioritize purpose and impact. Whether a company is committing to CSR or to ESG, we are seeing significant attention paid to social impact and sustainability strategies—and business models are being transformed.  

Mai Moore - Founder of Setting Off Social Impact

Mai Moore is a visionary Social Impact Leader on a mission to help build a more inclusive and equitable world. Mai Moore is the creator of Setting Off Social Impact, which is helping to build awareness and create action for social impact. Mai is a human, a bridge between worlds for impact, a mother who believes in authentic leadership, is inspired by people, and believes in creating a better world, together.

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years?

Companies realized that much of the dollars and energy they put into the community could have been more impactful than they may have thought. The connection between the company and the community needs to be clarified in communication, relationship, and understanding. Companies realize that more effort is required to create a better society and they hold a responsibility to their stakeholders, which include employees, community, clients, customers, partnerships, and more. 

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more critical part of business?

CSR starts with leadership. If social impact in corporations can't be front and center, with leadership support, a budget, and centered throughout companies, it will fail to work.  

CSR is holistic. Corporate Social Responsibility is an essential element of social impact, and social impact touches leadership, product, human resources, DEI, marketing, community, clients, technology and all stakeholders.

CSR lacks diversity. Recently, thanks to the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals, we can see some insights to the lack of diversity within CSR: 52% of heads of CSR are white women, 47% of heads of the department are white women, 61% percent of respondents indicated they work on CSR teams, with less than 25 percent BIPOC staff.

The findings are startling. How can only one segment of the population perform social impact? We need diverse corporate CSR professionals, as everyone has different expertise, skills, and experiences to make the best impact. If you don't have experience with the community you are serving, while you’re making professional executive decisions on where dollars go, without listening or understanding, how effective is that impact?
CSR needs to do a better job at bridging the gap between supporters and those it supports. 

How have these transformations changed businesses' attention to CSR and social impact?

Companies are openly realizing that changes need to be made to include:

more effort, more dollars, more diverse leadership and social impact teams, a holistic practice in social impact, and better bridges between community and non-profits.

Jayant Khadilkar - CEO and Co-Founder of Karma Wallet

Jayant Khadilkar is the CEO and Co-Founder of Karma Wallet, a financial tech data platform giving individuals and companies the data and tools they need to be more sustainable. Founded in 2019 by Khadilkar and his son, Kedar, Karma Wallet is the culmination of Khadilkar’s career in risk assessment, technology, and sustainability. 

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years?

Consumers expectations for business, and what “business as usual” means has changed significantly – they are more aware of what companies are doing and what they stand for. Across all sectors, consumers have made it clear that they want to support businesses that are outspoken and getting involved in cultural and social change. It is no longer just about having a good product or service – companies must be on the forefront of social activism, up to date with cultural nuance, and in touch with their consumer to such a degree that they know what values their consumers have.

We’ve also seen that consumers are willing to spend more, and research more, to find products and services that align with their values. They are demanding transparency from businesses they support, and are willing to give up more time and money to find businesses that they resonate with. 

There is two sides to this movement. On one end, it is amazing that more companies are integrating social and environmental initiatives into their business models – but on the other end, not all companies are doing it for the right reasons. Many companies are realizing that it is simply good business to become (or “seem”) more charitable and sustainable, and are doing so as a marketing tactic to get new customers. That said, in the last 5 years we have seen consumers educate themselves at a level not seen before – and they are catching onto this “greenwashing” by some companies, and instead supporting companies with authentic missions.

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more important part of business?

As companies adapt, they have to start internally. This means integrating social and environmental good into the entire business model – from the way employees are treated, to the types of goods and services they’re providing, to the marketing.

But it has to start from within, and it has to start from leadership pushing for these changes. We’re found through the Karma Wallet Employer Program that social and environmental initiatives are really important to employees, and that more employees than ever want to work with mission-driven businesses. 

Businesses have a ton of tools at their disposal. B Corp is a great movement for any company looking to shift towards CSR, with their mission being to “make business a force for good.” 

How have these transformations changed the kind of attention businesses are now placing on CSR and social impact?

Businesses are clearly making a shift. More companies are hiring teams or individuals dedicated to social impact, CSR, and sustainability initiatives. Businesses are integrating social impact and sustainability initiatives into their employee benefits. Marketing has shifted to focus more on the social impact of products and services, rather than just specific product features. As more businesses integrate social impact and CSR, consumers have more options to choose from and become more educated, and the market further shifts towards these kinds of businesses. A business having social and environmental values is no longer an outlier – it is becoming the norm. 

Alix Samuel - Officer of Employee Engagement and Workplace Giving at the International Rescue Committee

Alix Samuel is the Officer of Employee Engagement and Workplace Giving at the International Rescue Committee, a global NGO that responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping people survive, recover, and regain control of their future. Alix specializes in forming social impact partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, creating giving  and volunteering opportunities for employees of the IRC’s social impact partners. She has nearly ten years of nonprofit experience, and believes in the power of cross-sector partnerships to create effective change. 

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years? 

I’ve noticed a shift in the industry’s approach to charitable giving. Traditionally, donors would make a contribution and use it as good PR. More recently, donors want to be part of the solution and quantify their impact over time. There’s been a growing trend in philanthropists, foundations, and corporations wanting to play a more active role in the programs they’re funding. This includes through skills-based volunteering, operational partnerships, and other hands-on forms of giving. 

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more important part of business?

As CSR becomes a more important part of business, companies should continuously re-evaluate their value-add to their nonprofit partners and adapt their giving accordingly. It is best practice to defer to a cause’s needs and let that lead the partnership strategy.

How have these transformations changed the kind of attention businesses are now placing on CSR and social impact?

Businesses are now often weaving social impact initiatives into their day-to-day work and culture.

For example, many companies have formed skills-based volunteering programs that encourage their employees to donate their professional talent to support their nonprofit partners through structured pro bono programs during work hours. These transformations have shifted the way CSR partnerships are formed and have encouraged us all to think outside the box to utilize the wide breadth of resources that are available to help us achieve greater impact.

Discover a New Way to Create Social Impact

To learn about how you can differentiate your CSR initiatives by enriching and engaging historically excluded communities through CSR programs with Paragon One, 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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Feature

Industry Leaders on CSR’s Business Impact

We had a conversation with four CSR industry leaders about how CSR is influencing longterm business decisions and overall strategy.

Vanessa Poulson
December 23, 2022

The world of CSR and social impact is changing how companies across all industries are conducting business. 

We had a conversation with four CSR industry leaders about how CSR is influencing longterm business decisions and overall strategy. 

Erin Mogel - Founder and CEO of Elevate Social Impact

Erin Mogel is a social impact leader and lifelong volunteer with extensive experience across the nonprofit (immigration, human rights, international development, healthcare) and corporate social responsibility sectors. Erin is passionate about empathetic leadership and promoting kindness in business. She is Founder + CEO of Elevate Social Impact, a consulting and coaching practice which guides companies, nonprofits, and individuals on their philanthropic journey.

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years?

Throughout the last five years, I have witnessed the shift from traditional corporate social responsibility to more of an emphasis on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).

While CSR has traditionally been focused on community investment (grantmaking) and employee engagement (employee giving and volunteering), we are now seeing a significant rise in ESG investing and sustainability practices.

CSR is self-regulated and focused on a company’s internal processes, values, and culture, whereas ESG is a framework which stakeholders (investors, consumers, and employees, to name a few) use to evaluate a company. In short, ESG would not exist without CSR, yet companies are moving away from a traditional CSR strategy in search for a framework which is quantifiable.

Now, more than ever, companies are looking to embed ESG into their business model in order to do well, give back to society, and mitigate risk.

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more critical part of business?

Companies should be open and malleable as CSR becomes a more important and urgent part of business. The sector is ever-evolving and there is now an expectation that companies commit to giving back and positively impacting people and the planet. It’s becoming more common for CSR to be embedded into a company’s mission and brand, and companies should aim to keep up with any trends and new strategies for making and measuring impact. Social impact and CSR are now mainstream household terms, and companies are feeling pressure to be involved and adapt as the sector changes.

No longer a nice to have, CSR is now a need to have, expected by consumers, stakeholders, employees, and suppliers alike. Purpose and sustainability are everything, and CSR is now a key component to a company’s strength and success.

How have these transformations changed businesses' attention to CSR and social impact?

It’s been amazing to see companies prioritize their social impact practices and understand that business can and should be a force for good. Regardless of your sector or size, social impact has a place in all companies. 

Here at Elevate Social Impact, we are committed to helping companies build out their social impact values, purpose, goals, and strategy to set them on the path towards social responsibility. After all, businesses are now understanding that CSR has substantial returns: it helps to attract and retain talent, enhances a company’s bottom line, improves collaboration and team-building, increases brand awareness, improves public image, and customers choose to align with businesses that are doing good for society. There are so many benefits to CSR, and the transformations in this sector have encouraged companies to place an emphasis on how they can give back and prioritize purpose and impact. Whether a company is committing to CSR or to ESG, we are seeing significant attention paid to social impact and sustainability strategies—and business models are being transformed.  

Mai Moore - Founder of Setting Off Social Impact

Mai Moore is a visionary Social Impact Leader on a mission to help build a more inclusive and equitable world. Mai Moore is the creator of Setting Off Social Impact, which is helping to build awareness and create action for social impact. Mai is a human, a bridge between worlds for impact, a mother who believes in authentic leadership, is inspired by people, and believes in creating a better world, together.

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years?

Companies realized that much of the dollars and energy they put into the community could have been more impactful than they may have thought. The connection between the company and the community needs to be clarified in communication, relationship, and understanding. Companies realize that more effort is required to create a better society and they hold a responsibility to their stakeholders, which include employees, community, clients, customers, partnerships, and more. 

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more critical part of business?

CSR starts with leadership. If social impact in corporations can't be front and center, with leadership support, a budget, and centered throughout companies, it will fail to work.  

CSR is holistic. Corporate Social Responsibility is an essential element of social impact, and social impact touches leadership, product, human resources, DEI, marketing, community, clients, technology and all stakeholders.

CSR lacks diversity. Recently, thanks to the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals, we can see some insights to the lack of diversity within CSR: 52% of heads of CSR are white women, 47% of heads of the department are white women, 61% percent of respondents indicated they work on CSR teams, with less than 25 percent BIPOC staff.

The findings are startling. How can only one segment of the population perform social impact? We need diverse corporate CSR professionals, as everyone has different expertise, skills, and experiences to make the best impact. If you don't have experience with the community you are serving, while you’re making professional executive decisions on where dollars go, without listening or understanding, how effective is that impact?
CSR needs to do a better job at bridging the gap between supporters and those it supports. 

How have these transformations changed businesses' attention to CSR and social impact?

Companies are openly realizing that changes need to be made to include:

more effort, more dollars, more diverse leadership and social impact teams, a holistic practice in social impact, and better bridges between community and non-profits.

Jayant Khadilkar - CEO and Co-Founder of Karma Wallet

Jayant Khadilkar is the CEO and Co-Founder of Karma Wallet, a financial tech data platform giving individuals and companies the data and tools they need to be more sustainable. Founded in 2019 by Khadilkar and his son, Kedar, Karma Wallet is the culmination of Khadilkar’s career in risk assessment, technology, and sustainability. 

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years?

Consumers expectations for business, and what “business as usual” means has changed significantly – they are more aware of what companies are doing and what they stand for. Across all sectors, consumers have made it clear that they want to support businesses that are outspoken and getting involved in cultural and social change. It is no longer just about having a good product or service – companies must be on the forefront of social activism, up to date with cultural nuance, and in touch with their consumer to such a degree that they know what values their consumers have.

We’ve also seen that consumers are willing to spend more, and research more, to find products and services that align with their values. They are demanding transparency from businesses they support, and are willing to give up more time and money to find businesses that they resonate with. 

There is two sides to this movement. On one end, it is amazing that more companies are integrating social and environmental initiatives into their business models – but on the other end, not all companies are doing it for the right reasons. Many companies are realizing that it is simply good business to become (or “seem”) more charitable and sustainable, and are doing so as a marketing tactic to get new customers. That said, in the last 5 years we have seen consumers educate themselves at a level not seen before – and they are catching onto this “greenwashing” by some companies, and instead supporting companies with authentic missions.

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more important part of business?

As companies adapt, they have to start internally. This means integrating social and environmental good into the entire business model – from the way employees are treated, to the types of goods and services they’re providing, to the marketing.

But it has to start from within, and it has to start from leadership pushing for these changes. We’re found through the Karma Wallet Employer Program that social and environmental initiatives are really important to employees, and that more employees than ever want to work with mission-driven businesses. 

Businesses have a ton of tools at their disposal. B Corp is a great movement for any company looking to shift towards CSR, with their mission being to “make business a force for good.” 

How have these transformations changed the kind of attention businesses are now placing on CSR and social impact?

Businesses are clearly making a shift. More companies are hiring teams or individuals dedicated to social impact, CSR, and sustainability initiatives. Businesses are integrating social impact and sustainability initiatives into their employee benefits. Marketing has shifted to focus more on the social impact of products and services, rather than just specific product features. As more businesses integrate social impact and CSR, consumers have more options to choose from and become more educated, and the market further shifts towards these kinds of businesses. A business having social and environmental values is no longer an outlier – it is becoming the norm. 

Alix Samuel - Officer of Employee Engagement and Workplace Giving at the International Rescue Committee

Alix Samuel is the Officer of Employee Engagement and Workplace Giving at the International Rescue Committee, a global NGO that responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping people survive, recover, and regain control of their future. Alix specializes in forming social impact partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, creating giving  and volunteering opportunities for employees of the IRC’s social impact partners. She has nearly ten years of nonprofit experience, and believes in the power of cross-sector partnerships to create effective change. 

What is the most significant change you've seen in social impact and CSR over the last five years? 

I’ve noticed a shift in the industry’s approach to charitable giving. Traditionally, donors would make a contribution and use it as good PR. More recently, donors want to be part of the solution and quantify their impact over time. There’s been a growing trend in philanthropists, foundations, and corporations wanting to play a more active role in the programs they’re funding. This includes through skills-based volunteering, operational partnerships, and other hands-on forms of giving. 

How should companies adapt as CSR becomes a more important part of business?

As CSR becomes a more important part of business, companies should continuously re-evaluate their value-add to their nonprofit partners and adapt their giving accordingly. It is best practice to defer to a cause’s needs and let that lead the partnership strategy.

How have these transformations changed the kind of attention businesses are now placing on CSR and social impact?

Businesses are now often weaving social impact initiatives into their day-to-day work and culture.

For example, many companies have formed skills-based volunteering programs that encourage their employees to donate their professional talent to support their nonprofit partners through structured pro bono programs during work hours. These transformations have shifted the way CSR partnerships are formed and have encouraged us all to think outside the box to utilize the wide breadth of resources that are available to help us achieve greater impact.

Discover a New Way to Create Social Impact

To learn about how you can differentiate your CSR initiatives by enriching and engaging historically excluded communities through CSR programs with Paragon One, 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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