By Jenny Lawson, Chief Civic Innovation Officer
I am lucky to love what I do. For the last eight years I have had the privilege to watch and encourage the incredible growth of civic and social engagement in companies. Over this time, we’ve seen incredible growth – from only 24 percent of companies offering pro bono programs (CECP, Giving in Numbers, 2011) to 56 percent offering such skilled talent to communities today (CECP, 2018). From CEOs speaking out to Super Bowl ads focused on social action, companies are leading and lending talent and resources at an unprecedented scale.
This year, we are already witnessing more change. Each year in January the Points of Light Corporate Service Council meets to exchange new ideas, hear from experts and shape their company community engagement strategies. Over two days, members from leading companies gather to discuss building purpose into the center of their business and breaking down barriers that prevent people and their employers from taking action that changes the world. Just ahead of Davos, where CEOs and world leaders would tackle some of the toughest global challenges, conversations at this year’s annual CSC meeting helped us understand how the challenges we face in our own communities can be examples for larger social issues.
Through our work and partnerships with these companies, which are working to strengthen their value and connection to communities, we see a few trends for 2019 that haven’t made the headlines yet.
Companies are building out the “S” in ESG
The powerful environmental, social, and governance factors have rapidly weighted and shaped investment decision making. Spurred by BlackRock’s Larry Fink’s letter ahead of Davos 2018 and reinforced in his 2019 update, companies continue to develop measures to capture created value beyond profit. With a highly visible demand from stakeholders to tackle climate and environmental challenges over the last five years, and issues of governance watched closely by investors and creditors, clear and commonly understood measures around the “S” in ESG have been slower to develop. But 2019 promises to be the year of the “S.” Several powerful studies and initiatives are tackling social impact measures head-on. We see inspiration and action from:
- Internal measures like the causal relationship between employee volunteerism and employee engagement, from Bea Boccalandro at Veraworks;
- External measures focusing on outcomes and tied to the Sustainable Development Goals, like the Impact Genome at Mission Measurement;
- Coalitions building consensus and reporting muscle among leading brands like CECP’s Investor Initiatives and Impact2030 efforts to build measurement strategies connecting the impact of volunteerism to the SDGs.
Companies are innovating how they work with the social sector.
With ESG awareness and interest flooding into business thinking, companies are seeking shared value relationships and opportunities with external partners and inside the organization, too.
- Companies are expecting more measurement and data analysis and seeking transparency around impact and value from their nonprofit partners. Companies are also understanding that nonprofit partners need support, including pro bono staff time from the corporate world, to build the capacity and infrastructure to be meaningful data-driven partners. Initiatives like Booz Allen Hamilton’s Data Science for Social Good are opening new pathways and partnerships.
- Moving beyond support to stewardship, companies are seeking next-generation collaborations among stakeholders, including clients, vendors and respected NGO partners, to add depth, leverage and shared value to causes that reflect authentic interest in social challenges that align with the voice and values of the brand.
- Internally, companies continue to build cross-organizational integration that brings community engagement values and strategies into the enterprise. Frameworks and common goals are better connecting the value and learnings from social action to everything from leadership development and recruiting to marketing and vendor relationships.
Employee passions and causes matter, too.
While companies are driving to connect their social engagement strategies to authentic brand values and have natural alignment with their products and services, they are also understanding that the “whole employee” has relationships, social values and causes that they care about. As Gen Z comes into the workforce, companies are getting creative with community engagement strategies and initiatives that support employee passion as attributes of their authentic brand values. It’s a tricky but doable objective for an increasing number of companies, focused on blending a suite of opportunities from company-sponsored events, to matching gifts, to recognition for civic action through rewards. There’s a growing interest in more family volunteering, too, that may build as companies look to support millennial and Gen Z families.
Over the next year, we look forward to partnering with corporations and business to achieve these goals. As society expects more from business, we help companies engage their customers and employees in the challenges facing their communities and our world.
The Points of Light Corporate Service Council provides networking opportunities, best practices and new ideas that catalyze high-impact social change initiatives. To learn more about how your company could benefit from membership, connect with us at [email protected].