Corporate social responsibility (CSR) encourages companies to stay accountable, such as taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint or increase their diversity hiring.
How you respond to issues like social unrest and climate change affects how people perceive your organization. It shows a job seeker your values and how important they are to you.
A survey by Glassdoor found that 79% of candidates consider a company’s mission and purpose before applying for a job.
A CSR strategy doesn’t just increase your reputation with customers – it’s also a great talent acquisition strategy.
Candidates want to find a company that cares about current issues and has a strong company culture they align with.
This blog discusses the benefits of CSR and the best practices to build a strong strategy, such as adopting flexible work and fair hiring practices.
If you know the basics of CSR strategies already, go ahead and skip to the tips.
A CSR strategy is a plan that organizations use to organize and execute their social responsibility initiatives. It includes promotion approaches, communication strategies, and methods to monitor effectiveness.
These strategies not only improve the company's reputation from within but can also be shared to show the efforts to the public.
A few common corporate social responsibility strategies include DE&I initiatives, data security, and environmental sustainability efforts. These all fall under different types of CSR, which we’ll examine next.
There are four main types of CSR strategies that companies leverage. Most tactics and goals are included in one of these umbrella categories:
Environmental impacts: This is how a company reacts to environmental concerns. It includes strategies for reducing carbon emissions, reusing resources, and taking a mindful approach to distributing goods.
Philanthropic endeavors: This type relates to how companies support charitable causes. This includes supporting charitable organizations through various channels, such as donating money or supporting employees who spend time on them.
Ethical responsibility: This refers to how fair and ethical a company is. It’s rooted in the fair treatment of employees, candidates, and customers.
Financial responsibilities: This relates to how a company handles its finances. Strategies include transparent financial reports, ensuring data security with customer funds, and considering processes that might be expensive for their bottom line but improve other CSR programs.
Companies may engage in a handful of these or all four. A lack of activity in one field doesn’t necessarily mean an organization isn’t socially responsible.
Strategic CSR has always been important, but it grows in importance every year.
It’s essential for organizations to increase their corporate social responsibility programs because of this decade’s impactful events, such as the pandemic, the Great Resignation, global equality protests, and climate change.
Companies and business leaders need to show their dedication to these causes so candidates can find meaningful work with an organization that aligns with their beliefs.
Here’s a quick list of the top reasons why developing a CSR strategy is important for employers:
Improves your employer branding: A committed corporate social responsibility strategy improves your image as an employer. For example, showing your dedication to fair hiring practices lets candidates know you value their skills more than their backgrounds.
Attracts like-minded candidates: CSR practices enable you to attract candidates who have similar values and motivation. This helps any work environment but is particularly useful with capability building.
Improves company-employee trust: When workers know that their company supports certain causes and actively tries to stay accountable, it increases employee trust, which in turn increases productivity and retention.
The last point is also important for employees. It’s crucial to be able to trust your company, which increases job satisfaction and decreases stress and employee burnout.
A strong corporate social responsibility strategy also aligns candidates with their employers, creating a positive work experience so people can feel like they’re in the right place.
Before we dive into how to develop a CSR strategy, let’s quickly review the data-backed benefits of having one.
Taking real action for important causes affects your talent acquisition strategy in a big way, leading to a pipeline filled with great candidates and increased retention.
Here’s a closer look.
Candidates need to see what a company does to stay accountable. They want to see which values your organization prioritizes.
If candidates believe you don’t make a positive impact on important issues or that your company has opposing views to theirs, many of them won’t apply:
89% of candidates say it’s important for organizations to have a solid mission and purpose
73% would not apply to an organization that doesn’t share the same values as their own
56% of candidates say company culture is more important than salary in terms of job satisfaction
This last point shows that candidates put a lot of weight into organizational culture. In fact, it ranked number one in job satisfaction across countries, industries, and genders (apart from Germany and the nonprofit organization sector, where it ranked second).
For our full guide, read our blog on job satisfaction factors.
A corporate social responsibility strategy helps you attract relevant candidates who perform better in your roles, enabling you to fill your talent pipeline with top-tier professionals.
As the previous section discussed, culture attracts great talent, but it’s more than that. Alignment is important to securing top-quality hires, and unless you’re promoting your company’s values, you can’t attract candidates who align with them.
A study by the University of North Carolina found that cultural alignment leads to better communication, stronger relationships and trust, and better collaboration. 
CSR as a business strategy also secures great candidates through passive recruiting.
Showing passive job seekers your values and beliefs helps build a solid relationship – and gives them a good reason to consider your company as their next workplace.
Mis-hires usually don’t stay long. They lead to rapid turnover via quick quitting. This is because employees find out that the role isn’t for them and walk out the door.
Or, an HR manager finds out the new worker has vastly different values and has been stirring up a dozen kinds of workplace conflict.
They then have to make a difficult decision on whether or not to keep the new worker.
You can align candidates to their roles easily with a solid CSR strategy. Take it a step further and gauge their culture and personality with talent assessments for an ideal candidate-role match.
This strategy works: 91.2% of organizations that use skills-based hiring practices increase their retention rate.
Reducing mis-hires and increasing retention means reducing the costs of a bad hire, but it’s more than that.
Many CSR initiatives reduce costs, such as adopting remote working policies to help the environment.
How much can remote work reduce costs? Dave Rietsema, the founder and chief executive officer of Matchr.com, says companies can save up to $11,000 per employee in terms of overhead costs by adopting remote work.
This includes using less utilities, resources, and office space. Some companies are able to go fully remote, which is a powerful CSR move and completely eliminates the need for an expensive office.
Our team at TestGorilla is 100% remote. We have a strong, diverse team that’s connected over several continents by our shared mission.
Now, let’s get to developing a strong CSR strategy.
Every company has individual values and needs, which is why we’ve penned a flexible list of proven tactics that can enhance any CSR strategy framework through universal recommendations like skills-based hiring.
1. Align your CSR goals to your company culture
Ensure your CSR strategy supports your company goals and culture; this maintains consistency and secures more relevant hires
2. Set realistic, achievable goals
Slow, steady progress is much more meaningful to candidates than bold promises you can’t keep
3. Offer flexible work to attract great candidates and reduce carbon emissions
- Give candidates what they want by offering flexible work
- Benefit your environmental CSR strategy by reducing greenhouse gasses with remote work
4. Promote your CSR strategy through recruitment marketing
Spread the word about your CSR strategy by integrating it into your recruitment marketing campaign
5. Adopt a commitment to fair, skills-based practices as a CSR strategy
Show your dedication to fair hiring and diversity by gauging candidates with objective talent assessments
6. Offer educational assistance to candidates
- Support candidate education and development by offering assistance as a benefit
- Partner with diverse institutions to facilitate this initiative
7. Listen to feedback and continuously improve your CSR strategy
Send out pulse surveys to learn where you can improve and what you’re doing right
Strategic planning and CSR go together perfectly, so take the time to ensure your CSR goals align with your company culture, values, and mission.
Maybe your company supports a handful of charities. You can then offer your employees paid time off to volunteer.
This maintains brand consistency, ensures candidates don’t think your efforts are a “token gesture,” and helps you attract candidates who suit your organization.
You can facilitate this further by using talent acquisition technology like skills tests. Once you attract candidates with your corporate social responsibility strategies, use our Culture Add test to compare them to your values and goals.
This process enables you to build a good company culture, which is a winning talent acquisition strategy on its own.
Lofty goals are admirable but usually don’t translate into great results.
Take the time to determine short- and long-term goals that align with your company’s mission and purpose, then consider how possible they are.
For example, is it reasonable to make a diversity goal to achieve 15% Hispanic employees by the end of the next year when your company is in an area with a low Hispanic population? And what if you don’t have any processes in place for recruiting internationally?
Or can you promise big overhauls to your tech stack, considering the expensive price tags?
Revamping your hiring process to make it more carbon-neutral would be a good start, promising to spend a little extra to achieve great results.
But even if you can afford a total rehaul, gradually improving your HR technology stack is a better idea. Start small with one or two new pieces of tech and make sure you train your staff on how to utilize them efficiently to reduce the need for travel – then repeat the same process with two more (and so on).
Setting realistic goals with measurable metrics isn't just practical advice; candidates also want to see tangible results as assurance that you aren't just talking the talk.
Offering flexibility in the workplace is a great way to attract top talent and benefit the environment in one move.
Many executives are calling for a return to office, but leveraging remote employees is a win-win for employers and workers.
Remote work attracts a high volume of qualified candidates. Nationally, 11% of job ads offer remote work, but they attract 50% of total job applications.
Why is this strategy great for attracting workers? It isn’t only a matter of flexibility and autonomy. Seven out of 10 workers say a company’s environmental record matters in deciding whether to accept a job offer.
Flexible work is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Remote work temporarily reduced CO2 emissions by 17% in 2020, and the amount of recycled waste continues to increase because of easy access to at-home recycling bins.
This action could be a great part of your strategic CSR, and you can also provide remote-supporting policies that help employees recycle old technology.
Promote your CSR strategy through different channels, such as your website, social media, and newsletters.
This can be a subtle but powerful way to show candidates you’re a socially responsible company.
Here are a few CSR strategy examples:
Promote your remote work opportunities and tell candidates it not only helps them stay flexible but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Advertise how much money your organization has donated to important causes and charities
Show your commitment to fair hiring practices by promoting your use of skills-based hiring
Recruitment marketing is a way to show candidates your belief, culture, and value as an employer.
Candidates don’t know if your company is ideal for them unless you shout it loud and clear, and recruitment marketing makes it simple and efficient.
Committing to fair skills-based hiring practices is a winning move in your ethical responsibility CSR strategy.
Inclusive hiring sends a strong CSR message. It shows your company doesn’t require college degrees and work history, and it doesn't consider age, gender, sexual orientation, or race.
You can start small with skills-based practices. For example, start by adopting talent assessment tests.
These fair and equal hiring practices are something candidates like to see. TestGorilla’s State of Skills-Based hiring report found that 54.3% of candidates prefer a hiring process with talent assessments.
They’re also useful for your DE&I initiatives: 91.1% of organizations using skills-based hiring increased the number of diverse candidates in their pipelines and workplaces.
Offer educational assistance to potential hires as a part of your compensation and benefits package. Supporting employee education is a way to attract great candidates, and it’s a strategic CSR move that proves you care about their educational wellbeing.
It shows candidates you value learning and development – and that you believe these resources should be accessible to everyone.
Offering these opportunities is essential in a candidate’s market:
48% of workers would switch to a new job if it offered development opportunities
57% of workers want to update their skills
71% of workers want learning opportunities as an employee benefit
Try partnerships with educational institutions to facilitate this. Research universities and colleges to find one or two that align with your company, taking time to ensure it’s inclusive to minorities. This is especially important after affirmative action was overturned in June 2023.
A strong relationship with different educational institutions not only boosts your CSR strategy but also helps your campus recruitment efforts by increasing the likelihood of securing quality candidates.
Monitor and assess the results of your CSR strategy and continuously work to improve it.
Try sending out employee and candidate pulse surveys to ask about different aspects of your corporate social responsibility strategy. Ask employees if they feel your organization is doing enough; ask candidates if they feel engaged by your company’s mission.
Review their feedback, then communicate it and act on it. This increases your accountability and shows candidates your CSR efforts aren’t a token gesture. Instead, it shows you value sustainable business practices.
It proves you’re committed to making a difference, and you can keep tweaking your strategy until you’re satisfied.
Now, let’s take a look at three companies succeeding with CSR as a business model.
Many companies leverage this tactic for talent acquisition, but we’ve gathered a selection of standout CSR strategy examples.
Why it’s successful
Supporting employee education through paying college tuition fees
Attracting like-minded employees with its powerful environment-minded values
Campbell’s Soup Company
Showing candidates its deep CSR strategy, including nutrition, transparency, and diversity
Starbucks is seeing wild success by leveraging our sixth best practice listed above: offering educational assistance to your workers.
This company has been paying college tuition fees for thousands of employees since 2014. This program is available to any part- or full-time employee who doesn't have a four-year degree.
From 2014 to 2019, about 3,000 employees earned bachelor's degrees through the program.
Representatives from Starbucks say this program is aiming to address a major national concern: inequality of education.
Lisa Young, an executive director from Starbucks, says that the company wants to eliminate
"the notion of exclusivity [that] a college degree is meant for a certain group of individuals who can afford it."
Immediately following the release of this program, applications for all positions increased, from baristas to corporate roles. Due to the success of this initiative, Starbucks has extended it beyond the US to the UK.
Patagonia is an impressive example of the power of value-led recruitment.
This company is committed to green practices and helping the environment, and as a result, it receives an average of 9,000 applications for every internship and full-time position.
This passion seems to extend toward the employee experience as workers “hardly ever think about leaving.” This is reflected in Patagonia’s impressive 4% turnover rate.
Patagonia firmly believes that candidates want to work for a purpose-driven company that demonstrates authentic action and puts meaningful investment into current social issues.
Rose Marcario, the chief executive of Patagonia, had this to say: “When you do work that’s good for the world, people want to be part of it.”
We agree with this meaningful statement. TestGorilla’s mission is to place a billion people in their dream jobs, and we’re gathering amazing candidates and colleagues who share the passion necessary to accomplish this ambitious goal.
Campbell’s Soup Company is a great example of CSR activities.
This company has a dedicated CSR page describing its dedication to the environment and nutrition, transparency in its business operations, and compassion towards its employees.
Campbell’s has an impressive list of corporate social responsibility strategies:
Responsibly sourced materials
Greenhouse gas emissions
Its “Impact Page” documents what it's like to work at Campbell's, including its commitment to diversity and inclusion and its welcoming culture. These points, in particular, are attractive to potential hires.
The website also includes a blog about "Life at Campbell's," which further promotes the organization’s great working culture and atmosphere.
Developing a CSR strategy is essential for a company’s reputation and relationship with stakeholders, but it’s just as important to your hiring plan.
CSR strategy attracts talent that’s dedicated to and motivated by the same missions as your company, enabling you to build a culturally strong team committed to a unified purpose.
Start creating your CSR strategy framework with a few of the tactics we discussed above, such as using recruitment marketing and talent assessments. And don’t forget to align your goals with your company culture and image.
For more information on shaping your brand, read our guide on corporate identity.
If you’re looking for an effective way to hire your next CSR specialist, try our Corporate Social Responsibility Manager test.
"New Survey: Company Mission & Culture Matter More Than Compensation". (July 10, 2019). Glassdoor. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/mission-culture-survey/
Edwards, Jeffrey R.; Cable, Daniel M. (May, 2009). "The value of value congruence". PubMed. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19450005/
McCarthy, Justin. (April 13, 2021). "Environmental Record a Factor for Most U.S. Job Seekers". Gallup. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://news.gallup.com/poll/346619/environmental-record-factor-job-seekers.aspx
Shreedhar, Ganga; Laffan, Kate; Giurge, Laura M. (March 7, 2022). "Is Remote Work Actually Better for the Environment?". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://hbr.org/2022/03/is-remote-work-actually-better-for-the-environment
Koenig, Rebecca. (July 25, 2019). "5 Years Since Starbucks Offered to Help Baristas Attend College, How Many Have Graduated?". EdSurge. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-07-25-5-years-since-starbucks-offered-to-help-baristas-attend-college-how-many-have-graduated
"How Starbucks Drives Profit with ‘Purpose-Driven’ Recruiting". HR Retail. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://hrretail.wbresearch.com/blog/starbucks-hr-strategy-recruit-with-purpose
Ho, Sally. (July 15, 2020). "Value-Led Recruiting: Patagonia’s Purpose Mission Attracts 9,000 Applications Per JD (Including Interns)". Green Queen. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://www.greenqueen.com.hk/patagonias-purpose-driven-reputation-attracts-9000-applications-per-hire-value-led-recruiting/
“Our Impact”. Campbell’s Soup Company. Retrieved September 18, 2023. https://www.campbellsoupcompany.com/our-impact/
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