Suzanne Esber: Why corporate social responsibility can go a long way

Companies that make a commitment to social responsibility can do great things in their community while also yielding tremendous benefits for the business itself, including loyal customers and satisfied employees.

In The Civic 50, a study by Bloomberg Businessweek on the country’s most community-minded businesses, 96 percent of the ranked companies reported they were able to measure the impact of their social responsibility initiatives by increased sales and brand loyalty.

Employees also tend to be proud and energized to work for companies that give back.

Whether your company contributes directly, donates a percentage of annual earnings, provides products, establishes a foundation or gives one grant, your investment helps build sustainable communities. In fact, a well-directed grant can help address a societal challenge and bring about change and progress.


Encourage volunteerism

Employee volunteer programs are a relatively low-cost way to give back to the community, raise awareness of the company’s commitment and engage employees. Employees can be encouraged to volunteer as teams, as individuals providing pro bono services or as a member of the board of directors of a nonprofit organization.

Giving employees an avenue to support their community is important to morale and builds a collaborative and inspired team. Employees become excellent ambassadors for their company. Additionally, volunteering provides leadership opportunities to develop and expand their skill sets, resulting in increased staff performance and fulfillment.

Each year, the Orange County Register publishes a list of top workplaces in the county, polling employees from over 1,000 Orange County companies on a spectrum of different criteria. Last year, a new question made its debut on the survey, “How socially responsible is the company?”

Prominent Orange County-based businesses like Edwards Lifesciences and PIMCO have spearheaded social responsibility by creating employee volunteer programs and formal departments built around community involvement and philanthropy.

In 2013, employees from the global information services company, Experian, contributed over 18,000 hours of volunteer time valued at $6.1 million to the community. These companies understand that a strong correlation exists between social responsibility and a positive corporate culture, which in turn, adds to the bottom line.


Everyone can do his or her part

Large organizations may have the infrastructure to implement philanthropic initiatives, but smaller businesses might need assistance or advice on such issues as the complicated tax implications of giving and decisions on where to best direct your funds.

If you’re interested in increasing your company’s social responsibility efforts, but aren’t sure where to begin, organizations such as the Santa Ana-based nonprofit, OneOC, offer assistance and expertise. The organization has more than 50 years of experience working with community-based organizations and can help your company develop and advance its social responsibility programs.

Indeed, social responsibility is no longer an optional business practice. These days, the public has grown to expect businesses to give back to the community. Social responsibility has become an important part of a company’s brand, and the topic deserves its place at the table during corporate strategy sessions. The cost of giving is scalable, but the cost of not giving can be considerable.