By: Mollye Rhea
From shareholders to employees, stakeholder expectations for companies to be a force for good in communities continues to rise. This is causing an urgent need for purpose to become fully embedded throughout a company’s DNA. Opportunities abound for nonprofits to play a pivotal role in helping companies:
- Deepen community relationships
- Meet social impact goals
- Improve employee engagement
Nonprofits provide a historical richness and proximity to many of the communities that companies are interested in working with. They also have deep knowledge in key areas of corporate concern:
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
- Mental health
- Economic disparities
Many companies are looking to nonprofits to help upskill leadership and employees in understanding these areas.
Take a look at three trends we see taking shape for 2022.
Leadership will be required to show more empathy and compassion
As the “Great Resignation” goes on, we’ll see more companies deeply consider their work culture and seek to cultivate a more human-centric environment in order to attract and retain top talent.
According to recent research by IBM, 72% of prospective employees are more likely to apply for a job at an organization they consider to be socially responsible. Companies can demonstrate social responsibility by:
- Tapping into Employee Resource Groups (ERG) groups
- Surveying employees about causes they care about
- Providing employee volunteer and giving opportunities
With 96% of employees saying volunteering is essential to them, employers who tap into this passion will have an edge over those who don’t.
“…empathy is not just about listening or being nice. It is about understanding and insight. It is about forming connections and nurturing relationships. It is appreciating the relevant trends in both business and society. And what we have found at Citi is that empathy is foundational to how we deliver for our clients and how we attract and retain talent. Empathy enables the excellence we strive for every day. It helps create our edge.”
̶ Jane Fraser, President, Citigroup
Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) will drive corporate social impact investments
We foresee a continued acceleration of corporate JEDI initiatives. We expect this to play out internally and externally through thoughtfully selected nonprofit partnerships. Last year, 64% of CSR leaders considered racial justice a new long-term priority and 13% of CSR teams added staff with DEI expertise.
Undoubtedly, a key learning from the last two years in the JEDI space is to engage those who know their communities best. One strategy for getting this right is to engage nonprofits who have had history with the communities and people companies are looking to help. Another strategy is to tap ERGs with a JEDI focus to lead these efforts.
Depending on your impact area, engaging people who look like and identify most with the communities you want to serve will help ensure an authentic approach and prevent missteps.
Ultimately, stakeholders want to see real action, data and results toward doing better on racial equity. This is especially true among Gen Zers and Millennials. Both employees and consumers within these generations want companies to be truthful about the impact they have. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection keep you from progress: 81% of Gen Zers say a company doesn’t have to be perfect when talking about social justice issues, but it should be open and honest.
“…we took a really hard look at where we are from a diversity and inclusion standpoint…the ugly truth is we aren’t where we need to be…I love to think about the opportunities that come out of the things we’ve learned in the last year and how we catapult forward into the future. I fundamentally believe that a diverse organization is going to outperform a homogenous one every single day.”
̶ Chip Bergh, CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.
Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and CSR integration will be the norm
We’re often asked what the “S” in “ESG” even means. A Harvard Business Review article dubs this the “middle child predicament” and calls out the need for companies to better define the social component of environmental sustainability to its stakeholders.
This is especially true of the connection between climate justice and social equity in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities who are often exposed to the worst impacts of human and natural disasters.
A full 82% of U.S. CEOs have shifted their focus toward the social component of their ESG programs since the pandemic started. Companies will be held accountable for their actions to mitigate climate change.
There will be more cross-over than ever before between environmental risk mitigation teams and CSR teams in the quest to reduce environmental impact. Integration of these two traditionally siloed functions will open up extensive partnership opportunities for nonprofits.
“Companies need to know their vulnerabilities and strengths in the ESG space. They can look at themselves from the outside and calibrate: What is my environmental footprint? What is my social footprint? What is my governance footprint? Then consider what your vulnerabilities are within those brackets, as well as your strengths. Where can you step up and really make a difference? If you don’t know your vulnerability, the critics will point it out as soon as you start speaking about ESG or purpose externally and criticize you for it, so you had better get there first.”
̶ Bruce Simpson, CEO, Stephen A. Schwarzman Foundation