Ensure your benefits strategy lives up to ethical expectations

Amanda Wilkinson, editor, Employee Benefits: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not simply about having a heart of gold. Many organisations have adopted a CSR strategy because it can help to deliver business benefits.

By building a reputation for operating in an ethical manner that takes into account the wellbeing of the environment and society, organisations can: ward off the possibility of government interference through tighter regulations or taxation; differentiate their brands from rivals; dampen the impact of corporate scandals or hostile activists alleging wrongdoing, and, most importantly for human resources practitioners, aid recruitment and retention.

Research suggests that many employees, especially those just entering the workplace, want to work for an employer that is able to demonstrate that it operates ethically. Organisations need to think about the social welfare of staff not only in relation to working practices but also in the way they are rewarded and motivated.

Benefits that recognise and help support staff achieve a work-life balance, such as flexible working and childcare vouchers, fit with a CSR strategy and enhance the image of a caring employer. Provision for sabbaticals to carry out charity work or payroll giving, especially when the sums raised are enhanced with employers’ matching contributions and the tax efficiencies of salary sacrifice, add to that sense of balance and satisfaction. Such initiatives also help motivate employees by boosting morale and enabling them to fulfil their own desires to contribute to society.

Where perks are already offered to staff, employers should make sure they fit with any environmental and ethical concerns that they or their employees may have. For example, they could conduct a green audit of their fleet to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions or make sure that the pension offers staff ethical investment options.

As society demands higher corporate standards from business, so will employees, so make sure your benefits strategy holds up to close scrutiny. And remember there are business benefits to be had in adopting a CSR strategy in terms of recruitment and retention.

Amanda Wilkinson, Editor