How to Measure the Impact of Your Corporate Social Responsibility Program

In this episode, we discuss how to measure the effectiveness and impact of your CSR Program. We explore the challenges of measuring impact including how a program was developed affecting how it could be measured. We also review measurement tools and why executive buy-in on what to measure is crucial. 

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Karl Yeh:

So, today I'm joined by Nicole Campbell, CSR expert, and we're going to actually talk about measurement. So, Nicole,

How would you go about measuring a CSR program once you’ve started it?

Nicole Campbell:

That is a very tough question and I think that it differs depending on what your CSR or CR program looks like.

Measuring overall CSR strategy vs. different CSR pillars

And let me explain. 

So some companies, [00:01:00] and this may be you, have the broader, more genuine definition of corporate responsibility, which is all encompassing of pro-social acts.

So that's environmental or sustainability, DE&I, employee engagement, philanthropy, supply chain, all of those pieces that you'd have to have an overall strategy that you're measuring out on.

But then, within each of those pillars, you'd have your own impact metrics [00:01:30] that you'd want to keep a pulse on.

But then, we have a lot of companies who we often are working with, are focusing on maybe one or two or three of these pillars, and then that changes how you're going to be measuring the success on these things.

And then, the other variable here is what it is you're solving for with your programs and we talk about this a lot in our other videos.


So as an example, if you are truly solving for employee engagement with one aspect of your program, [00:02:00] that's when you really need to figure out, okay, well, how do you define engagement?

And we can give you some examples of those.

Karl Yeh:

It probably isn't a straightforward method of, I don't know, measuring the impact of a website or measuring the impact of a marketing campaign.

As hard as that is, this is a completely different scope and there's a lot of moving pieces to this, right?

Nicole Campbell:

The challenge of measuring CSR impact

Yeah, it's really hard.

And historically, people would report out on just [00:02:30] the actions and the things that they were doing and investing rather than the outcomes. So, impact is so hard to track.

Like if you're working with not-for-profits, on the other side, you have to rely on them having the resources and time and ability and skills to measure out on the impact that they're doing through their organization.

And so, today companies have just been reporting out on more so the inputs, so how much they've invested, what percentage of their people are giving back, how much of their [00:03:00] own money, how many volunteer hours and what are the stories that they have?

And the thing with that is, there is absolutely a place for that type of reporting but companies have been putting these on their websites as a CSR report, but who's reading them, right?

No one's going to go on ... I would argue just based on experience, and download this report [00:03:30].

And part of the reason for that is,

we’re shifting to this place now where companies are doing this stuff because they think that it’s the right thing to do.

They know that they need to invest this money.

They want to do it the right way.

They want to do the research to understand the needs assessments and how they can use their core competencies to give back, rather than it just being this vanity level, superficial type of report saying, checking the box, these are the things that we're doing.

The one place for reporting, I would say, is more so in the ESG world, environmental, social governance, because companies are now using that [00:04:00] for investors and potential stakeholders for assessing risk.

And so, this is a totally different perspective on reporting and that's where I think there really is a place.

And the cool thing is, corporate social responsibility programs, or CR programs, can actually line up to the E and the S of that ESG.

So, you can report out on the actions that your people are doing to be more environmental through even the Benevity platform, using Missions or social, [00:04:30] all of those pro-social behaviors, everything from allowing your people to give and volunteer and rewarding them for it, to the stuff that you're doing at a corporate level and more strategic grants and things like that.

Karl Yeh:

And I think it goes back to my previous question then, how come there's so many variables to this?

You just mentioned ESG, but I have a feeling, not all organizations would measure on that ESG [00:05:00] level, right?

Because, I think businesses want to know both from a people sense and from the business sense, does this thing actually do what it's supposed to do and what is the positive impact to the business itself? Right?

Nicole Campbell:

It's a great question and the reason why is, similar to what we talked about in other videos, that there are just so many different justifications and reasons and years [00:05:30] of history within these companies that make the need for reporting and the expectations from their stakeholders, a little bit different, depending on who it is, how much they're investing and things like that.

Tools to measure CSR

Karl Yeh:

Is there specific tools that you use?

Nicole Campbell:


Karl Yeh:

I don't know, maybe I'm just making it ... I'm simplifying it, is there spreadsheets or things that people can download, or where would one go [00:06:00] if you're just starting to see how you can show your executives or show your team the impact of your programs?

So, is there anything like that or is it more customized for each organization?

Nicole Campbell:

So, every organization has its own success metrics and like I was saying before, some of them are really challenging because you can't prove true impact.

You can measure the inputs that you're making.

So, some companies, like I said, are measuring [00:06:30] the dollars invested. They're benchmarking against peers.

They're tracking participation of their people in these types of pro-social things. And then, at a deeper level, you can start to measure engagement.

So, if you're thinking about employees engaged in these programs, if you think of it as a scale of levels of engagement, you can have people participating in a transactional way.

So, they're donating their money. They're giving their [00:07:00] time because the company asks them to.

As you move them along a scale of engagement, then you, with your support and your program, you can get to a point where you're measuring how many volunteering and giving opportunities they're setting up themselves.

Arguably, that level of investment of initiating themselves, is a higher level of engagement.

And so, people are either using CSR reports or they're measuring the inputs that people are making, [00:07:30] but they're unable to measure the outputs. Do you see what I'm trying to say?

Karl Yeh:

I do. I do. I do. And it's interesting because it's ... I guess how your program is set up is kind of how you're going to measure the impact of your program too. Right?

How your CSR program was created impacts how it is measured

Nicole Campbell:

That's what I was saying in my opening.

Yeah, exactly.

So, every company is so different and how you're measuring it is based on if you have an overarching CR strategy with all of these pillars, you're measuring out on all of those things.

[00:08:00] Some companies just use one pillar and call it their CSR program, and then they're trying to measure it on that.

But in any case, it's impossible, well not impossible, but it's very challenging to measure the impact on the communities.

All you can do is connect those dots between the inputs that are being made and assuming that they're being used in a reasonable way on the other side.

And then, you can measure internal things like employee engagement, they're the voice [00:08:30] of the employee, how they perceive these programs, how it makes them feel.

Those are typically the things that companies are measuring out on.

And in a lot of cases, companies are creating dashboards that they present to their leadership on say, a monthly basis or quarterly basis, just so people can track the engagement and usage of these programs over geographies and regions and time.

So, that's it. You can hire external [00:09:00] consultants to get more into the impact measurement. I believe ESG is one of those, but even through Benevity, I mean, you're able to measure all of the actions of your employees and how that develops over time, which I think is a big part of why these programs exist for a lot of companies in the first place.

How would you know if your CSR program is working?

Karl Yeh:

So Nicole, how do you go about actually making sure your program is actually working?

So, how do you check in, what kind of metrics are you using.

Less about you reporting to another group, but just making sure that the program itself is running efficiently.

Nicole Campbell: 

That's a great question.

I think this goes back to having really clear goals about what you're trying to achieve, not even just on an annual basis, but say, quarterly goals of you hope to [00:10:00] do X.

And then, if you have a clear objective in mind, then you can start to test the reality against it.

And this is, as an example of this, even from an employee engagement type of program around giving and volunteering, if you are seeking to deepen the levels of engagement.

So, maybe it's not just a participation rate that you're aiming for, maybe you want to see people start to own the program themselves.

So, they're creating [00:10:30] their own opportunities. You can measure that.

And then, from a geographical perspective, using even Benevity, you can look in the back end and be like,

"Oh my gosh, so folks in Canada aren't really getting involved in this."

And then, you can start asking questions. Is it about communications? Is it about misaligned incentives? And you can do that through surveys and talking to people and just doing a bit of an investigation on your part.

So, then you can better direct the solution to [00:11:00] that focus area.

Is that what you're looking for?

Karl Yeh:

It is, it is, it is. In terms of measurement, do you have anything else to add?

Get executive buy-in on what to measure

Nicole Campbell:

Yeah. I think it's really important because it is challenging sometimes to measure out on some aspects of CR.

It's important to have that executive buy-in on what you can measure and what's important to the company.

So, maybe it's less about the impact seen in the communities in a more traditional sense, but [00:11:30] it's more so getting clear on what your engagement goals are, what the leaders are comfortable giving back in a meaningful way. 

Knowing that you are doing your needs assessments and they're agreed on it, those types of things, making sure that at the beginning, you have a clear understanding from your leaders about what it is you're trying to achieve.

So, then you can get their full support if it's going well or if it's not going well too.

Karl Yeh:

Got it. So, if you [00:12:00] want to learn more about developing a CSR program from scratch, you got to check out this playlist here, as well as this playlist, to learn more about strategies and tactics on developing a CSR program.

Thanks for watching and we'll see you on our next episode.



About Nicole Campbell:

Nicole’s passion for behavioral science plays a key role in her ability to help organizations manage and adapt to change. 

Nicole has worked with companies of all sizes, industries, program varieties, and varying levels of executive support — and has had a hand in designing or growing Social Impact programs for some of the biggest brands out there. Her role, working with so many different companies, has provided her with a wealth of experience, data and anecdotes that have shaped a strong understanding of what works, what doesn’t and what’s next.