Looking ahead: CSR trends in 2017

As we enter December and the year-end, it is a good time to think about the successes of corporate social responsibility and employee engagement and look forward in anticipation of what to expect in 2017 and what we can do to take programs to even greater heights.

By most measures, 2016 has been a good year for the philanthropic side of CSR. While final numbers aren’t yet available, total charitable giving is predicted to increase by 4.1% which is above historical 10-year and 25-year average growth rates. In addition, a newly released study by PwC found that CEOs have bought into the value of CSR with 64% of them saying that “corporate social responsibility is core to their business.” Companies recognize CSR as a tool to build trust with consumers, partners, governments, and their employees.

More companies are getting involved, and CSR is maturing within companies. It has gone from a voluntary action to a required function, and companies are embedding CSR within their values and culture. Employees are engaged as champions and serve as advocates for good sustainable business practices and strong citizenship goals and programs.

Companies are uniting behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Hundreds of companies are united and committed to using their corporate volunteer efforts to help advance the SDGs.

Donations Good Done Great

With that as a background, here are some things we can expect to see happen, or we hope will happen in 2017.

Charitable giving is expected to have another banner year. One prediction is that it will grow by more than 4% again. This will be two years of above average growth.

Giving by American individuals/households is predicted to increase by 3.7% in 2016. Average growth in personal income is contributing to this prediction.

Consumer confidence is strong. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index provides information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. Consumers’ assessments of current conditions improved in November and increased by 6.3 points to a level of 130.3. It is at pre-recession levels.

With this growth in consumer confidence and with the prediction that consumer spending will increase, CSR will be more important than ever to help companies build their brand and grow and capture new business.

In 2017, consumer-facing companies are expected to reach beyond the traditional employee workforce to engage their customers in CSR activities. CSR will move beyond the walls of the workplace and will include the active promotion, engagement, and involvement of employees, customers, partners, and vendors in their sustainability and philanthropy initiatives.

As CSR continues to mature, the circle of champions within a company widens, and new and unique voices come to the table with fresh and innovative ideas. The circle and sphere of CSR activities will continue to broaden with each company, and more cross department collaboration will increase.

More and more small and mid-size companies will jump on board with CSR and define a strategic focus for their responsibility and engagement programs. Small companies recognize the call for social responsibility and for meeting the needs of a changing workforce. They are capitalizing on the lessons learned over the past decade to build authentic and robust programs of their own.
Small business CSR

Employee involvement remains critical to the success of CSR and continues to be the foundation of most initiatives. Millennials are now the largest generation in the US workforce, and the number of millennials in the workforce is expected to rise dramatically. Businesses seeking to engage employees will need to continue tailoring their approaches to this group. Research suggests they are driven by open communication, a great company culture, involvement with causes, and achieving purpose and fulfillment.

One downside of 2016 is that volunteer participation hit a record low; the volunteer rate dropped to 24.9%. This downward trend began in 2014 and continues.

Companies can be the answer to help increase this number. As you enter 2017, take time to assess your policies and practices to ensure that you have supportive policies and programs that encourage and reward volunteerism. Remember that 77% of millennials prefer to volunteer in a group. Provide them with opportunities to engage with their peers in meaningful and transformative volunteer projects.

The 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study found that “employees want more than the traditional donation and volunteerism programs when they come to work. They want to be part of something bigger – and that means having a tangible and active role in contributing to their company’s CSR goals. Employees are ready to voice their opinions and roll up their sleeves to make an impact on social and environmental issues important to the business.”

While CSR continues to be defined by each individual company, it is a combination of good business practices, caring for the environment, being a socially responsible company, involving and supporting employees, and being a good neighbor and citizen. Opportunities abound for great things in 2017. We hope you’re optimistic about the new year and committed to moving your programs forward.

Contact Good Done Great to learn more about our technology and consulting services and how we might be able to help you with your CSR and employee engagement programs.