9 key elements for your 2024 CSR strategy
Planning for the future during uncertain economic times is challenging, especially if you’re also working with smaller teams or shrinking budgets. Through all of the change, purpose is helping companies pave the path forward. And, you can leverage your corporate purpose program to bolster your culture and help build connection and unity between your people — all while delivering on your promises of creating both social impact and profits.
To help you start your 2024 CSR strategy, we’ve pulled together the top insights from our annual research report, The State of Corporate Purpose. It highlights emerging trends and includes insights from nearly 1,000 purpose-driven companies.
1. Follow your North Star when taking a stand on social issues
Should you speak up or not? The answer isn’t always easy, and our data shows you’re not the only one who’s conflicted. We found that 88% of CSR leaders believe companies should be courageous and take a stand on social issues, even if it means alienating some people. At the same time, 71% of CSR leaders agree that companies must be more cautious about which issues are supported vocally because of the potential for negative backlash.
The answer lies in deeply understanding your company’s mission and values, and using that as your North Star when deciding when to take a stand in a world that seems polarized.
- Use your company’s mission and values as a North Star to determine when to take a stand.
- Take hold of the unique opportunity your company has to drive social impact and change, even through polarization.
2. Uphold the role of CSR as a unifying force
CSR professionals are in a unique position to bridge the gap between purpose and profits. And with 93% saying they believe companies should act as a unifying force for humanity, your 2024 strategy can include tactics to seize these opportunities. For example, look at how you can support your employee resource groups (ERGs) on issues they care about, amplify diverse learning opportunities for all of your people, and offer giving and volunteering for key awareness dates.
We’ve also seen a growing trend, which we call ‘quiet giving’. This trend addresses the uptick we’ve seen in companies focusing more on supporting their people and nonprofits in the areas where they operate. Going into next year, consider what local causes your people already support and see how you can back them, too.
- Strengthen your culture — and society — by supporting and amplifying the work of your ERGs.
- Offer giving and volunteering opportunities that help everyone grow.
- Prioritize investments in your people and nonprofits close to home.
3. Maintain your granting and community-based efforts
While your people should be a top focus, nonprofits and the vulnerable populations they serve need your consistent support now, more than ever before. By continuing to support key communities and nonprofits that are on the ground driving change, you can help promote long-term resilience, while demonstrating impact to all of your stakeholders.
Not sure where to start? We are seeing companies increase their investment in five key areas.
- Maintain your community investments.
- Commit to long-term support to bring value to communities and stakeholders.
4. Create communities to attract and retain top talent
The next year will call for companies to embed purpose into their recruitment and retention strategy. With 50% of the workforce being purpose-led Gen Zers and millennials, companies will need to embrace community building by providing a work experience where learning, growing and taking action are all within reach. And, it needs to span both remote and hybrid work models.
In 2024, look at how you can infuse purpose from day one by offering new hire seeding so employees can donate to a cause they care about in their first week, a group volunteering activity, or a scavenger hunt (in-person or online) with a donation reward at the end.
Not only do your people want these opportunities, but there are business benefits as well. The Benevity Talent Retention Study found a 52% lower turnover rate when newer employees participate in a corporate purpose program through volunteering, giving or other positive actions.
- Build community at work to attract and retain top talent.
- Create a purpose-driven culture where employees can connect, learn and make a difference together.
5. Embrace the year of volunteering
Volunteering has made a strong comeback since 2022 when many of us were at home trying to figure out what work and togetherness would look like. Now, 71% of CSR leaders say they will increase their reliance on volunteering to improve connections, especially with hybrid work environments. Additionally, 9 in 10 CSR leaders agree that companies who are focused on building community into their culture will be the most successful, so you’ll want to look at how you can implement creative ways to offer volunteering opportunities that are easy for your people to participate in.
- Leverage volunteering (remotely and/or in-person) to create a sense of community at work.
6. Keep moving the dial on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
Although the benefits of DEI initiatives are well understood by businesses and society, CSR professionals don’t see their companies as leaders in the space. Yet, 95% believe companies should support employee growth on matters of social and racial justice and equity, and there is more to be done. You can strive and take action toward being a DEI leader by increasing investment in initiatives such as unbiased hiring practices, gathering benchmarking data to track your improvements, and supporting your ERGs that further your efforts in an authentic way.
- Support DEI at work by helping employees learn about social and racial justice and equity.
- Continue moving the dial by increasing your investment in DEI initiatives and drivers.
7. Embed ERGs into your core DEI strategy
Once driven purely by grassroots efforts, employees now rank ERGs as more beneficial than personal DEI commitment from the CEO and other leaders. And 91% of employees agree ERGs and affinity groups have a greater impact on inclusivity than unconscious bias training according to The State of Workplace DEI. That means to realize their true potential, ERGs must evolve from grassroots initiatives to being a part of your company’s core DEI strategy. In 2024, ensure you give your ERGs a seat at the table for DEI discussion and decisions so that your business and all of your people can benefit from their passion and expertise.
- Include ERGs in your DEI strategy conversations so everyone can benefit from their expertise.
8. Unite CSR with ERGs
The impact of ERGs span further than just DEI. These key groups know what your people care about, and the best ways to make an impact for their communities. By thoughtfully partnering with your ERGs, your company can help create a culture that allows everyone to flourish and feel supported.
One way you can do this is by having your ERG leaders create giving opportunities for causes they care about during awareness months like Pride or Mental Health Awareness Month, and then helping highlight and amplify those causes so everyone can learn and support.
- Create a culture of allyship and belonging by supporting ERGs.
- Partner with your ERGs through giving and volunteering to drive even more impact.
9. Expand ESG reporting beyond risk-management to impact reporting
There is mixed sentiment on the usefulness of ESG, with two thirds of CSR leaders saying ESG is currently a risk management strategy, while one third believe it’s a good tool for impact. However, there is strong alignment when it comes to impact reporting, with 95% saying impact reporting will be a critical investment and 91% saying impact data will increase support for investments in corporate purpose. This is because stakeholders care about impact and want to have a better understanding of how your company is creating tangible change.
In 2024, look at how you can share how your company isn’t just reducing negative impact, but generating positive impacts and outcomes. Leading companies are already exploring new reporting tools and standardized data, like that from Impact Genome, so they can better understand the outcomes they’re achieving and benchmark their progress over time.
- Begin exploring new reporting tools and leveraging standardized data.
- Look at how your company can begin reporting on your impact in a more tangible way.
With the right CSR strategy in place, you can make 2024 a year of exceptional engagement and impact! Lean into purpose, and you’ll be well on your way to unifying your people — and society — while being a force for good that delivers on stakeholder promises.