By Stacy Pollack

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in business means operating in a way that enhances society, rather than solely focusing on increasing profits and revenue. 

In a recent op-ed about CSR, Marc Benioff, CEO of (CRM -0.37%), wrote, "It's time for a new capitalism -- a more fair, equal and sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone and where businesses, including tech companies, don't just take from society but truly give back and have a positive impact." 

A woman and two men smile and chat around a lunch table.

Image source: Getty Images.

Whether your business truly believes in CSR or not, operating in a socially responsible fashion is becoming more important for companies looking to remain competitive. According to a Glassdoor survey, 75% of employees ages 18 to 34 expect their employer to take a stand on important issues affecting the country and their constitutional rights, including immigration, equal rights, and climate change, more than any other age group. 

CSR is not only good for attracting talent, but also for making your customers and shareholders happy. Your shareholders don't just care about profit anymore; they care about the triple bottom line. 

Examples of CSR

There are many larger organizations influencing the way the world views CSR. 

For example, Alphabet's Google (GOOGL 0.45%) (GOOG 0.43%) is looking to tackle the housing shortage in the San Francisco Bay Area through its $1 billion investment aimed at developing sustainable and affordable housing. According to CEO Sundar Pichai, Google will build "15,000 new homes at all income levels in the Bay Area." It has several other initiatives aimed at incentivizing developers to create more affordable housing developments, and helping with the displacement of people and homelessness. The goal is to create a more sustainable community for the future.

Patagonia is another major player in the world of CSR. It has a long history of encouraging its consumers to be more environmentally friendly and have incorporated this ethos into its business model. Through its self-imposed "earth tax," Patagonia has raised over $100 million since the 1980s toward donations to grassroots environmental organizations. According to Business Insider, Patagonia donated 100% of its Black Friday sales to environmental organizations. Beyond donations, 70% of its products are made from recycled material, with a goal of reaching 100% in 2025. Patagonia is a company that truly walks the walk, and for this, it has received the UN's Champion of the Earth award. 

Benioff has been a leader in helping solve the problem of pay inequality. Salesforce is engaged in a CSR initiative that's closing the gender pay gap. Benioff says, "We have spent $10.3 million to ensure equal pay; today we conduct annual audits to ensure that pay remains equal. Just about every company, I suspect, has a pay gap -- and every company can close it now."

How to get started?

Of course, not every company has the resources or finances to commit to large-scale projects like the ones above. However, that does not mean you can't commit to operating in a way that is more socially responsible. 

A great first step is finding out what your employees are passionate about, rather than focusing on what would be good for your brand. Employees expect to work somewhere that gives back, and they expect to do so on their own terms. You can start small, and work with your local communities to support where you can. You can also provide your teams with designated days to volunteer and give back to organizations of their choice.

As an employer, allow space and autonomy for "grassroots" initiatives that people are passionate about. For example, Tucows Inc. (TCX -4.34%) has a learning management system that allows learners to take courses and earn points that are typically traded in for company swag. This month, it let its learners convert their points into trees to support the recent #teamtrees initiative of planting 20 million trees by 2020. As a result, Tucows had 100+ trees planted and had more employees cash in their learning points for trees in that month than it had in two years (Disclaimer: I work at Tucows and my team was responsible for this initiative!). This was a grassroots project that the company supported, and everyone was engaged in the initiative.

At an organizational level, take the time to think about your company values, and align your CSR initiatives to those values. At a micro level, you should always be asking yourself about the social cost of every decision you make or ignore, and the impact it will have. CSR initiatives and reporting among publicly traded companies will continue to increase as we head into 2020. What is your company doing to keep up and help the world?

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