“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
These words, penned by young Anne Frank in her famous diary, remind us of the power of kindness, but they also echo through the business world as companies embrace the spirit of corporate social responsibility, or CSR.
A 2017 study by Boston-based Cone Communications noted that while CSR was long-grounded in business operations such as water conservation and supply chain transparency, the concept has evolved further. “Companies must now share not only what they are doing, but what they believe in,” the study said.
“Being a good corporate citizen matters,” said Susan Hubley, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Capital BlueCross. ”Consumers increasingly care about where they spend and earn their dollars.”
Consumers value companies for many reasons. The Cone Communications study found:
- 87% of consumers would buy a product from a company that advocates for issues or causes the consumer deems important.
- 94% value companies that are good employers.
- 90% value companies that operate in a way that protects and benefits society and the environment.
- 89% value companies that create products, services, or programs that ensure the well-being of families.
- 87% of consumers value companies that invest in local and global causes.
Some companies have robust and mature CSR programs with meaningful community ties. Capital BlueCross, for example, supports dozens of programs focused on critical needs. Partnerships with the Lehigh Valley Health Network, and Northampton Community College, help provide dental services to hundreds of underserved. Financial assistance has helped expand the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley, and keep shelves stocked at the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“Our ability to work closely with community leaders and provide guidance and financial support has made a notable difference in our communities,” Hubley said. “That solid working relationship also helps us act with urgency during times of crisis. For instance, when the COVID-19 pandemic set in, we were able to quickly adapt and expand our support to help the most vulnerable populations.”
Many companies, including Capital BlueCross, actively cultivate a positive work environment by encouraging and rewarding volunteerism and philanthropy.
The results can be tangible. Capital BlueCross employees, for example, raised over $500,000 during the company’s annual United Way campaign in each of the past two years.
Recently, Team Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Central Penn Business Journal and the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development, listed Capital BlueCross as among the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania.” It was the third straight year for the honor.
“We’ve been at this for a long time, and have had a chance to refine and improve what we do,” Hubley said.
For companies that are just developing their CSR programs, there are a few things to keep in mind, she added.
“Think about what your company does well. It could be communication, engineering, transportation or any number of things. … Know your customers and your community. Try to understand what they value and appreciate.”
An important final step, she said, is employee recognition and appreciation.
For example, Capital BlueCross has an annual Employee Volunteer Recognition program, and offers Employee Volunteer Grants to organizations to which employees give time.
In September, it launched a new online portal, GIVE (Get Involved & Volunteer Engagement) that makes it easy for employees to find volunteer opportunities.
Encouraging volunteerism may have an additional benefit that trumps all others: a healthier and happier workforce.
Many studies suggest that regular volunteers are happier, more fulfilled, and less likely to experience depression. Other studies, like one from Carnegie Mellon University, have linked volunteerism with physical benefits such as lower blood pressure and less heart disease.
“When you’re doing things that help lift your communities, everyone benefits,” Hubley said.