The Business Value of Virtue: Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Engagement

 -  5/14/07

The front page of BP PLC’s Web site features a prominent yellow box that offers a link to the company’s annual Sustainability Report. Above the link is this blurb: “Reporting on our nonfinancial performance and progress toward sustainability.” This eco-friendly effort on the part of a global oil giant is just one example of how world-class companies are increasing their commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Yet, although this trend is altruistic, it primarily is aimed at meeting business goals.

Although most large companies participate in some sort of philanthropy, the most successful businesses view their social efforts as part of their strategic business plan. With production centers, business partners, customers and employees in more than 100 countries, BP has relationships around the globe that it must maintain.

By identifying where the needs of the company, its clients and its constituents overlap, businesses such as BP can improve their bottom line while making a positive difference in the world.

Employees are especially connected to their companies’ commitments to strategic CSR. A recent survey by Sirota Survey Intelligence showed an organization’s dedication to authentic CSR directly affects employee engagement, as well as workers’ views of the business and its leaders.

In a survey of 1.6 million workers from more that 70 organizations, 86 percent of respondents who were satisfied with their company’s commitment to CSR had high levels of engagement, in comparison with 37 percent of employees who had a negative view of their organization’s CSR.

Similarly, 82 percent of workers who were happy with their company’s CSR felt their organization was highly competitive in the marketplace, compared with 41 percent who thought negatively of these initiatives.

The study also showed CSR had comparable effects on how workers gauged their leaders’ integrity, senior management’s inspirational sense of direction and the company’s interest in its employees’ well-being.

Douglas Klein, Sirota Survey Intelligence president, said these findings show workers’ loyalty and dedication to their company is closely related to its image in the outside world.

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