Debi O’Donovan blog: CSR is seen by leading employers as integral to their performance

Debi O’Donovan, editorial director, Employee Benefits: There has been a distinct change in the way employers view corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the workplace.
It used to be the case that employers simply saw CSR as the promotion of charitable work among staff, payroll giving and perhaps a commitment to help with local community projects.
These days, CSR is seen by leading companies as integral to their performance; it is a crucial strategy to attract staff and win business contracts.
When forward thinking employers talk about CSR they think about the wellbeing of local communities, customers, shareholders and of course, employees.
As many as 63% of delegates at the Employee Benefits Summit 2008, held last month, said that their organisations had CSR high on their business agendas. Bearing in mind that these benefits managers were from 50 of the UK’s leading companies, this is a skewed sample. However, where these firms lead others will follow.
Just 31% of this group said they gave CSR no thought when looking at their reward and benefits strategy – and this proportion will only shrink. Already 57% of them have selected at least one benefit on the basis of its CSR credentials.
Taking environmental, social welfare, diversity, wellbeing and charitable issues into account is no longer a fringe activity when it comes to benefits. Advisers who have not yet cottoned on to this will lose out to those who can tick the CSR boxes of today’s employers.
We are finding more employers are looking closely at benefits they offer, who the suppliers of these benefits are and what these suppliers’ own CSR credentials are.
Company cars are under greater scrutiny than ever before, pension products continue to be expanded to offer green, religious and ethical investment options, while more employers are offering benefits that promote wellbeing, be it health or financial wellbeing.
As part of their social responsibility agenda HR and benefits managers do tend to see that tackling blights such as obesity and debt is part of their remit. Which is probably a good thing, seeing that the government is looking to employers to help with pensions and health problems.
Bikes-to-work, healthy eating, health screening, ethical pensions, financial education, wealth creation, payroll giving, charity work, flexible working, support for parents and carers, social clubs and prayer rooms are just a selection of the benefits being promoted in workplaces to back up corporate CSR strategies.