The Corporate Social Responsibility of Tomorrow: How to Succeed

In today's video, you'll learn where the corporate social responsibility industry is headed. We explore how world events shape CSR and social impact as well as trends on how businesses will integrate CSR into the future.

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Key Highlights:

  • Businesses need to integrate corporate social responsibility into the future.
  • According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, business are:
    • essential for building trust.
    • deemed as the most influential to create change 
  • The Great Resignation has made employees rethink what work and purpose means.
  • Two-thirds of employees are rethinking what work and purpose means to them.
  • Companies need to focus on purpose from three different perspectives
    • This includes purpose related to the company ethos, role-oriented purpose, and employee giving back.
  • Shiny objects and branded items can no longer be traded for staff morale.
  • Businesses need to ensure employees have a sense of purpose in order to keep them engaged.
  • Staff morale and productivity can be improved through the integration of CSR.

Read what we discussed:

Karl Yeh (00:00):

My guest today, you've probably seen her before, Nicole McPhail. She is the managing partner of Social Impact and co-founder of Darwin Pivot. Thank you very much, Nicole, for coming back.

Today, our conversation, it's I guess part of a two-part series on the future of corporate social responsibility, where previously, we talked about the future of the corporate social responsibility professional, but today we're actually talking about, I guess, the profession or the industry as a whole.


Where do you think CSR itself is going?

Maybe we don't talk about CSR itself, but social impact itself and how it relates to businesses going forward.

Where is social impact headed?

Nicole Campbell (01:06):

You always have a great question, Karl. I think that there's two major influencers that are driving where social impact is going, and then also align to what we talked about in the social impact professional. Look forward, those two meet.

The first is something that I know Benevity had talked about as a trend for 2022.

So this was in 2021, is all around sort of trust in the four major institutions.

So Edelman Trust Barometer came out and they said basically, trust in government, business, not-for-profits, and basically every sector is in all-time low.

I guess the positive side of this when it relates to businesses is that of those major institutions, business was deemed as the most influential organization to actually create change going forward.

It's a really big opportunity for companies to think about their role.

Then in tandem, we have the great resignation, which is a phrase that I am sick of hearing and I'm sick of saying, but the reality is it is here.

All of the struggles and changes that have been going on, especially throughout COVID, it's really made employees think differently about what work means to them.

There was a study recently done by McKinsey that said two-thirds of employees from this massive study that they did are actually rethinking what work means to them and what purpose means in their life.

This is really self-reflective moment where companies, if they want to also retain and keep their people and attract the right people, they need to be thinking about purpose in a new way than they ever have before.

It does go side and side, hand in hand with this idea of trust in the organizations.

When companies think about purpose, they have to look at it from three different dimensions and this is where social impact comes into play because social impact can support all three of these.

The first is at a high-level purpose in terms of what that company means, how they're operating, their ethos, who they are.

A lot of that has to do with the ethics and the social responsibility, diversity, equity, inclusion, all of these things roll up into this bigger, who are we as a company.

Then the second piece is around within a role, so what purpose means for how someone shows up to work.

This actually can tie into some of the CSR strategies as well. Then lastly, what purpose means in terms of an extension of the company via the employee.

How can you provide the platforms and the opportunities for employees to give back in meaningful ways and have a sense of purpose?

Because no longer are the days where you can keep your people by dangling shiny objects and giving them Pelotons and company-branded sneakers because that glow has gone so quickly.

You can create this sense of purpose through helping your people do meaningful work and feeling proud to work for a company that has that shared purpose at a higher level too.

So I would say when it comes to social impact going forward, the role is going to be a lot more strategic than it ever has been before, because you're looking at all of these different dimensions and then you're also factoring in compliance things like ESG reporting, and if your company is following suit with that, this requires a whole new set of skills to be able to actually execute all of this.


I would say right now, most CSR practitioners aren't experienced and trained in that type of ESG thinking. So long-winded way of answering that question. Does that help?

Diverse background of Social Impact Professionals


Karl Yeh (05:12):

Yes, it does. I was going to look at it from both sides.

You've got the professional itself and I guess the skills that they require.

That's going to be changing, as well as what the requirements from the business side will be changing as well.

I think it's not something as set in stone as, hey, here's a corporate lawyer.

This is what we need and it's pretty much this is what a corporate lawyer does, obviously different in different companies, but with a social impact professional who's connected to diversity, equity, inclusion, connected to ESG, connected to sustainability, all those different elements.

Those are always changing.

The people who, I guess, enter the field, they're coming from very different diverse backgrounds.

Back to the lawyer example, you go to law school, you become a lawyer.

Yes, you work in different industries, but you're trained in law versus a social impact professional who may actually come from the legal side, but also may come from an engineering side, may come from marketing side, may come from various different elements, which actually brings a very unique, I guess, I don't even know what to call it, a diverse perspective from one role.

Nicole Campbell (06:40):

It's so true.

I think that is a really great call out because I feel like the diversity and thought based on all of those dimensions could shape where CSR goes altogether.

I think there's going to be a lot more accountability and a lot more creativity and it'll be last one dimensional. I think that's a fantastic point.

Even my business partner and I, I have more of a traditional CSR background, but it's coupled with behavioral science.

She comes from a form of data science from the geography space that makes her think differently about mapping out social impact, metrics, and trends over space. What a cool new thing to bring to this space.

So the more type of diverse thinking and experiences that we can include, it is very exciting to think about what's next in this realm.

Karl Yeh (07:32):

One thing I also thought about was how social impact, and even just working at Benevity, seeing the various world events that have impacted the role.

Because there's seasonal things like disaster relief comes a certain time of year, there's giving season, but sometimes there's disaster, but sometimes it's world change that has an impact on the role. It's not that often that yes, world change impacts companies and what they do, but actually, world change impacts a role so significantly that that role adapts to it over and over and over again.

That was an interesting observation I've had with this role. I guess in addition to that diverse perspectives, you also have all these world events that continuously shape it over and over and over again.

Nicole Campbell (08:34):

It's so true, and even COVID as an example.

Karl Yeh (08:38):


Nicole Campbell (08:39):

People are working from home. They didn't like having that commute anymore.

They realized, what am I doing driving for an hour to and from work when I could be spending it at home with my family?

I think that precursor to where we are now change those expectations of employees and then that was a forcing mechanism for businesses to think differently about the way that they do work. You're so right.

All said and done, maybe this is one of the good things that could have come from like COVID. It's forcing positive change that can be scaled through massive enterprises as one example.

I don't want to say positivity with COVID, but I like to think that maybe we could take something out of this that could be positive in the future.

Karl Yeh (09:32):

I guess where do you think business adoption is going?

Because we've seen it from major enterprises and I think there's a lot of pressure coming in for societal pressure, employee pressure, but how about maybe the small, medium, or just businesses getting started?

Where does social impact play a role in their growth?

Where is business adoption of social impact headed? Especially with small to medium-sized businesses?


Nicole Campbell (09:57):

Awesome question. Emily, my business partner, and I, we've been talking about this a lot lately because people are people.

Everyone is expecting their companies to give back and it is not just enterprise-sized companies.

I think the difference is in terms of the capacity to actually execute out on these.

It's almost like I think some of these smaller companies are where the bigger companies were back in the day where they're like, well, we can't afford to hire a full-time employee to do this, but we want to make this available to our employees and our communities, so let's find creative ways to do it.

I think that's what's happening.

So it'll be doubling down on a year-end holiday campaign that has to do with making donations to organizations.

It just isn't pretend as organized as it is for enterprise companies.

That benefit though for these smaller companies is unlike a lot of the larger companies who have to go back and think about, well, how can we rewire the way that our company operates to include purpose and include social impact, these smaller companies can be more flexible to change their ethos around it a little bit easier than the big ones.

So I think that's the opportunity and hopefully, there'll be solutions out there for smaller businesses to be able to facilitate these types of programs similar to the Benevity's of the world, right?

Karl Yeh (11:30):

Yeah. So Nicole, we can definitely be talking about the future of CSR for multiple episodes, but if anybody and any of our audience wants to connect with you, what's the best place to reach you?

Nicole Campbell (11:42):

Yeah. An easy one, find me on LinkedIn. You can find us My email address is