Difference between Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Social Responsibility: Trends for 2022 and beyond
In this episode, we discuss the difference between corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility and trends going into 2022 and beyond. We explore how corporate citizenship has shifted, and the concept of "Agency" as it relates to social impact and creating a sense of belonging in the workplace.
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What we discussed:
So we've got two special guests today. The first one you probably already know, it's Janelle St. Omer, Regional Vice-President with Benevity, and our special guest is Chris Jarvis, who is the Co-Founder of Realized Worth.
Janelle St. Omer:
Thanks Karl, and hello, everybody.
Happy to be back here again, and I'm super excited cause we have Chris Jarvis, the Chris Jarvis here with us today, Co-Founder of Realized Worth.
Chris and I go way back, and I'm so excited to pick his brain today on [00:01:00] all the trends that we're seeing in corporate citizenship over the last year. Chris, thanks so much for being here.
Chris Jarvis: Yeah, thanks for having me, Janelle.
Janelle St. Omer:
So let's dig right in.
I think let's start at the basics.
Folks talk about corporate social responsibility, they talk about corporate citizenship, they talk about corporate social impact.
There's so many terms thrown around, but is CSR the same as corporate citizenship to you?
What's the difference between Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Social Responsibility?
No, but they all live in the same neighborhood.
So I would say that CSR is distinct [00:01:30] when it's a bigger envelope, and it covers issues like sustainability, in its truer sense of environmental impacts, ethical sourcing, supply chain management, that kind of thing.
When I think of corporate citizenship, although those phrases are definitely a part of your citizenship as well, I feel like, and this may just be me, Janelle, so this isn't the gospel truth or anything [00:02:00] , I feel like corporate citizenship tends to talk about people impacts like communities with people, or people helping people, but there's more of a people element than you might find with CSR on its own.
But again, that's just my thinking. I don't know if that's actually true.
Janelle St. Omer:
I often think about citizenship around people.
So, corporate citizenship being the people actions, how they come together to stand up, to make a difference, to get involved.
So I tend to agree with you there.
As folks are thinking about the shifts that we've seen, we can all agree the last [00:02:30] year has been crazy, and I think we've seen so many shifts in our work.
I think never before has our work been so prominent.
It's in the spotlight, folks are talking about it. What are you seeing as the top three, or maybe there's five, shifts in corporate citizenship, and what does it look like?
What do they mean for the space?
What are the ways that Corporate Citizenship has shifted and impact to the industry?
Yeah, I think the citizenship shift has been happening for a while.
As [00:03:00] the space has evolved and companies have gotten more visibly active in communities, meaning the sort of hidden philanthropy of the past, where a small number of people with an excessive amount of wealth made a donation and maybe didn't want to be seen, they were trying to be humble, but also you don't want to be seen as the person with big checks, frightening them all over the neighborhood.
So, now it's a visible modeling, but also [00:03:30] I think going back to that citizenship word, I think it is a corporation trying to say,
"Look, we have more privilege than regular citizens. We've got a lot of laws in place that protect us against wrongful deaths, being sued, paying taxes, a whole bunch of things. We get this privilege."
So with great privilege, or great power even, comes great responsibility, and I think employees have been seeing that, and communities have been seeing that for quite [00:04:00] some time and been saying, "If you want to take this role, you have to assume the responsibility that comes with it, and we are going to hold you accountable."
Now, that's obviously been exacerbated or sped up in times of crisis, which for humanity is always the issue.
Context really matters, and then during the pandemic and with the awful social justice issues that have been visible in a way that they haven't been before. [00:04:30] I think citizenship has sped up, but I think it's kind of following the mindset of the people working at these businesses as well, because there's this merging of my identity and my values with that of companies, and "Who am I?"
Esther Perel had a great article in Fast Company just recently, and she talks about this kind of coming together. And so, it [00:05:00] creates a much more complex situation right now.
Janelle St. Omer:
Absolutely, and I think to that point about people coming together, the individual nature of the thoughts, the interest, the passion in some of these issues, we certainly saw in our report on The State of Corporate Purpose, moments turning into, or movements, rather, turning into movements.
Movements turning into moments is what we saw in our report, and I feel like in your last [00:05:30] blog, you also talked about programs now turning into movement.
So can you unpack that a little bit?
The orientation now that companies can be actually driving movements, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
How do programs turn into movements: How companies are driving movements
Yeah, and I want to acknowledge on behalf of all of the listeners, that that was the question you asked me.
I answered part A and then forgot what the part B was.
Yeah, we talk about, and going back to what I just said, so this shift has been happening for a while, but it sped up, and then there's new [00:06:00] aspects of it where employees are beginning to see their role in a company and work, their relationship with work differently.
But for quite some time, we have seen the beginnings of that when programs were fine, and are still good, programs are good in a necessary way to organize ourselves and get involved in community investment and corporate citizenship.
But they're shifting to something more like a social movement in that a one and done, and a sort of a transactional [00:06:30] episodic approach doesn't meet the desire of those who are involved in it.
If my identity is merging with the company I work with, and if I have this new relationship with, I'm kind of at home, I'm maybe in the office, we're understanding work, we're kind of ingesting it in a way where just doing a thing, like hanging an ornament on a tree, isn't going to be anywhere near what I need for my personal life.
So now, and [00:07:00] that's why Esther's article is so interesting, because there's this melding of these two entities of the brand, the company, and the individual.
And so, how I express my values has to be more than just a program.
So it's becoming this social movement.
We're spending our own personal social capital in it.
We're using our own networks, our own values.
We're imbuing it with our own energy and our insights, and we're willing to learn and be changed by [00:07:30] it.
So there's this reciprocity as I invest in it, I want it to be investing in me and changing me as well.
And so, that's why a program that I tend and leave is nowhere near what I'm looking for in my work, or in these moments, yeah.
And I do like... What did you say, from something to moments?
Janelle St. Omer:
Movement into moments, or moments into movements.
So, having these moments in time, the things that potentially could shape and [00:08:00] change us being turned into full-scale movements that have longer term view, more sustainability. Yeah.
Because I mean, we're all seeing that out in the world, all of the interventions to try and correct the hundreds of years of hurt of the white community towards the black community in the United States in particular.
Just a moment, and "We covered it, we're good, right? We can go and we should be okay now. Oh, we're not okay. [00:08:30] How about this?"
That's not it anymore, and we're beginning to realize, "Okay, this is a long-term movement, and we're going to have to be in this together all the time. I can't just check it off as a box, and that's the interesting mindset, I think the shift in the broader global mindset that's happening now."
Janelle St. Omer:
Absolutely, and I think to your point about the individuals within companies as well, because you also talk about participation to agency, we often at Benevity, talk about empowerment and employees really feeling empowered [00:09:00] to co-create the experience.
So, I love this concept that you talk about in terms of agency. Can you explain a little bit more about that?
What is Agency?
Yeah. So "agency" is a word that's fairly well known in the nonprofit sector, I find, and maybe in some other areas, but in the private sector, business sector, it maybe needs sometimes a bit more unpacking, but it's a sense of self-efficacy.
So, "I can make a change. I have access to the tools and resources, the insights, and whatever else I need, the motivation, to actually go and do [00:09:30] something, either for myself or for others."
It's an empowered state of being, and so, the idea that people are seeing it's not so much about, "Can we get them to show up and get the numbers and the hours?" But
"Can we give people an experience, a continual experience, not just the one and done, in and out, but this ongoing interaction where they can assume more of the role and the identity that they would need to have agency?"
So, as I look at something in my neighborhood, [00:10:00] and I say, "I don't know what I think about that, I don't know if I like that. I don't know if that's right," a person with agency would say,
"So I will educate myself. I will make some connections. I will listen. I will interact."
A participant would say, "I'll show up at a meeting," or "I'll sign a..." It's a little too transactional like, "I don't know what else to do. I signed a form that came by, but what am I supposed to do?"
There's a shift away from that to somebody who's far more competent as a citizen.
Janelle St. Omer:
I love [00:10:30] that, because you really think about moving employees along a spectrum, because maybe that's how you start, you sign the form, you show up, and-
Chris Jarvis: Exactly, yeah.
Janelle St. Omer:
After you've gone out and had a really great experience, well then, what do you do then?
Do you feel empowered to say, "I have observed this issue in my community and I feel supported by my company to then show up by doing X, Y, and Z, and not waiting for somebody to provide the time and the space for me to perhaps do it?" Right?
Yeah, I think you actually said that way better than I [00:11:00] did, and you also made the point, and rightly so, that we all start out in a program, right?
Through participation. Like, "I show up because I don't know what else to do," but that's where you show up in the first time, and that's great.
There's nothing wrong with that, but the company needs to be thinking, as you suggested as well, more long-term like, how do we get people out there to actually address it, rather than just be spectators?"
Janelle St. Omer:
Absolutely, and I feel like it's shifting, and I feel like the companies who are [00:11:30] embracing it are going to see over the next three to five years, their programs take off, probably in a way that they didn't even think possible, and perhaps even have it so deeply embedded into the fabric of their company, that it's a very pleasant surprise.
But what do you think about the companies who have hesitation or concern around this level of agency for their employees, as it relates to their programs?
Because we can't necessarily, or can we, have employees out doing everything?
What are your thoughts on that?
How to address business hesitation or concern about Agency?
Well, [00:12:00] yeah, right. I don't think we can have them doing everything, we wouldn't want to present them with that.
So I agree with you there, and there is some hesitancy, but usually it's around, I'm sure you know this as well, Janelle, because you're out there and having as many, if not more conversations than I am, but the first thought is our employees are busy, right?
Or they should be.
They're really busy.
I don't have time to give them agency, because that will take [00:12:30] education, experience, a reoccurring touchpoint maybe throughout the year to have a conversation about it, "What have you learned?"
And they're too busy for that, and they don't want it, they're so busy.
But this is exactly what they do want.
They want your brand, plus, and a good corporate citizenship program is like you can get Disney, eh, you can get the kids' stuff for free, or you can get Disney+, right?
It's a little bit more, would people pay for it?
Yeah, if it has the value, [00:13:00] the value I'm looking for, and if you're giving an opportunity to manage this melding in this coming together of my life, the work like my brand, and my work brand, and learn something and develop, absolutely, I don't mind the time, but I think that is the one concern that managers have is that we ask you so much, we shouldn't ask more.
Now, but you also split the question well, Janelle. I like that. It's not the agency though, right? They're fine with people having [00:13:30] agency. I just don't want to have to take time, or ask people for time to help them get that.
Janelle St. Omer:
And I think to the point, and we're talking a lot about people, the individuals and how they make up a company, so if you think of what having that agency means to an individual or that empowerment, the conversation around belonging in the workplace is everywhere right now.
So how does that translate to belonging, from your perspective?
How are we moving from [00:14:00] this place where I feel like, "I want to help and it's good for me to help," versus me getting involved actually makes me feel like I belong here in my community, in my company, I'm a part of a social fabric? Can you talk a little bit more about that?
How does sense of Agency translate to sense of belonging in the workplace?
Yeah, just exactly what you said, "I'm here, there's a place for me. I'm part of the social fabric," that is far more interesting than "I helped somebody on the way home." [00:14:30]
Now, what's funny about me saying that is that when I help somebody and I understand the significance of how I'm helping you, combined with proximity, I actually see the person I'm helping, so you're not just a statistic that I put $10 towards.
I have that helpers' high, those endorphins that are released in my brain, and it's quite intoxicating and this is why the human species helps, because there's a very powerful reward system attached to helping other people.
[00:15:00] But if you combine helping with the sense of belonging, you're going from Disney to Disney+. It's just so much better, because I get this, and I get the [inaudible 00:15:16] of being allowed to be me here.
This is safe space for me to be and make my contribution, and to learn, to be challenged in an interesting way.
Those two things together are far better than the moments of just helping, and so, programs [00:15:30] that want to have lasting impact need to move from helping to belonging, but there's a downside to that.
Okay, so here's what it is.
Why creating a culture and mindset of belonging is difficult
Belonging works two ways.
I have a fit and I have a place, and I'm accepted for me.
I forgot that I've got to do that for everybody else around this table too, right?
That's the hard work of belonging.
I have a place, and it's wonderful, [00:16:00] but that guy over there, he drives me nuts, but somehow I've got to find a way to create space for him to be who he is too, or her to be who she is, so they get to be who they are.
But that goes beyond the workplace, and so, when we go into the community and we help the poor, we have to understand we're not there to fix them or make them look like us.
They're not a problem to be solved, they're a part of our community.
They live in our community. This community belongs to them, they belong to the community. [00:16:30]
I belong to the community as well. My issues belong to them.
They've got to deal with the decisions that I make, or that I influence, and vice versa. Their issue of addiction, we're both affected by it in some way, right?
Violence in America, we're all affected by it. It's not just happening to them and they [inaudible 00:16:52] the problem, but a belonging mindset says, "This is a burden that we all should bear together."
Not in a colonial [00:17:00] way, a white man's burden. I mean, you bear in a [inaudible 00:17:04] posture the burden of it, and we work together to co-create solutions for it as well.
That's the hard part of belonging. It's much easier to use the old charitable model of helping the other, because I get to keep them as the other.
As soon as I move to a belonging mindset, as wonderful as it is for me and I think that's what I want, the othering is gone, and it is just us, and that's just a whole lot of work.
Janelle St. Omer: [00:17:30] It is.
Chris Jarvis: I mean, think Thanksgiving dinner, right? That's a lot of work.
Karl Yeh: So Chris, we had a great conversation when we're talking in our previous episodes about diversity, equity, inclusion, and we talked about how do you actually get everybody included? Because you're right, if you have to, you want to make everyone belong, but there's going to be challenges, because different people have different concepts of belonging.
Chris Jarvis: Yeah.
So is that the [00:18:00] responsibility of the business, or is that the responsibility of the individual?
Who's responsibility is it to ensure equitable belonging in the workplace?
I think it's the responsibility of both, and that's a great question because often, we don't tend to think, "Where does my sphere of influence and responsibility start and finish, in belonging and the workplace?"
And we won't get into all the things.
Diversity is great, but without inclusion, it's just a side show type of stuff, because I think we should all know that pretty well by now, we've been talking about that for a decade [00:18:30] in one form or another.
But for us, we think about it, even at our own business, we think about creating space for inclusivity and belonging, but it's all of our responsibilities to enter that space and do something with it. It's our responsibility to move as many friction points as we can, and to also, I think set some standards in terms of what here belonging means to us.
But when it comes right down [00:19:00] to it, if the individual actors don't participate in those rules and that system, then I wouldn't think many people would feel belonging.
But I feel like, yeah, and Janelle, I sort of feel like... I think that was a great question, Karl, but I sort of feel like it's the most obvious answer in the world.
So the interesting stuff is why it's so hard though, why accepting you threatens my own identity?
I mean, that's built right into your DNA, this, "That's different. [00:19:30] That's not good," is how evolution has conditioned us for hundreds of thousands of years, and it's going to take a little longer than a few decades to unravel that stuff.
But it's no longer about, because I just want to backtrack a bit of our conversation, because it used to be you go to work, you do your job, you leave, but now it's... I guess I'm taking part of work when you're talking about the plus side.
You're taking part of work with you, or [00:20:00] you're bringing your personal into work as well.
Yeah, and I know we talk about this as a new thing, and I've been saying this Esther Perel thing, and this merging, and I do think it is an interesting time to say, "I worked for Company X out of my house for 18 months."
That does do something with your psychological perspective on the relationship between the two. But if you go back in time, "I'm [00:20:30] Mr. Baker."
I mean, I name myself after the job. "I'm Mr. Smith. I'm Miss..." You know what I mean? So the idea of the merging identities with what I do to make a living, and who I am fundamentally as a person, and my values, and what's interesting to me, for most of human history, those two things have been synonymous. You wouldn't have known Bob the Sailor without knowing him only as a sailor. That's his shtick. [00:21:00]
So I don't know if we're going back to the way it was, because we're all going to hop around between... I don't know. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
The first person that named themselves after where they work will be an historic event.
Well, maybe just the industry. "I'm Mr. IT."
Janelle St. Ome...:Well, Chris, as always, thank you so much for being with us today. I think this was a great discussion on corporate citizenship, and as the space continues to evolve, as individuals are doing things, as employee expectation is changing as well, I think we're going to continue to have more and more of these conversations, and see different shifts happening in the marketplace.
Chris Jarvis: Yeah. Me too. Thanks for having me.