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The compounding benefits of CSR and employee engagement

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, has gained momentum as part of a healthy and thriving workplace culture. It’s the idea that companies should play a proactive, positive role in their communities and the world.

It benefits companies, too. In predominantly white, male-dominated fields especially, I’ve seen big steps taken to demonstrate CSR, and they have gains to show for it. ERGs, sustainability programs, and other socially conscious goals consistently bring understanding, appreciation, and representation to their employees. They’ve also seen increased performance.

But can CSR initiatives actually work on multiple levels? Can they help employees feel better about their work and more motivated to do well for their organizations?

Employee demand for CSR can boost engagement and performance

CSR initiatives can bring notable benefits that boost employee engagement, including workers feeling empowered as “agents of social change.” However, these impacts depend on how an organization owns and embodies CSR.

An organization that shows deep support for CSR initiatives will help its employees feel a sense of collective belief and identity. Employee morale is essentially the overall satisfaction of employees with their organization. The flourishing relationship between morale and CSR is promising for organizations; it represents one more way an employee can be proud of the organization they work for and a way an organization can show that it cares.

A study by public relations firm Porter Novelli shows that nearly 70% of employees really do take corporate responsibility seriously, saying they wouldn’t choose to work with a company without a strong sense of purpose. In fact, 60% would take a pay cut if it meant working for a purpose-driven company.

In today’s world of work, we are evolving new ways of working, overcoming challenges that new remote styles bring, and trying our best to be flexible while continuing to connect and collaborate with each other. CSR promises to be something of a panacea at this time, boosting morale, strengthening engagement, and ultimately leading to higher levels of performance and retention.

When morale is high, and people are truly connected to their organization, they show up energized and are more committed. Positive employee morale is probably even more crucial with a remote workforce because this group is removed from an organization’s typical experiences and interactions.

3 actions to boost engagement through CSR

What can leaders do during their working days to develop CSR initiatives in a way that increases employee morale through social responsibility? How can they nurture those initiatives within their companies to lead to a greater productivity rate and an overall stronger business?

Here are three ways managers and companies can take tangible steps to provide purpose to their people:

1. Clarify what level of CSR works for your organization

Social responsibility is not a cookie-cutter addition to your organization. To use CSR initiatives to engage employees with a sense of purpose, the way you adopt these initiatives should be purposeful, too.

CSR initiatives don’t have to be large and headline-making. While Patagonia can donate all of its profits in perpetuity for the sake of climate change, your approach to social responsibility might be smaller.

What kind of CSR makes sense for your company? Are there causes that already come to mind? Are there causes that you can support within your immediate local community or the surrounding communities you regularly spend time with? Find a cause that aligns with your company’s and workers’ values and become an organization that is active in being an “agent of social change.” Once you begin, keep going, and don’t become complacent. You can and should continue to build on the excellent work you started.

2. Bring employees into the brainstorm

Employees are passionate about initiatives that are designed for their benefit, and they’re incredibly passionate about purpose-driven CSR initiatives. So make sure you’re giving them a voice in the decision-making process. What issues do they care about? We know that Millennials and Gen Z-ers actively care about helping others through their work, so give them a chance to design their own social actions.

You could do this by standing up an ERG. Employee-driven, these initiatives often focus on diversity, inclusion, and belonging and are born out of actual needs and gaps within an organization.

For example, you could have an ERG focused on environmental causes. In the name of social responsibility, LEGO committed to reducing its box sizes by 14% about a decade ago, alongside a larger mission to make the toy industry more sustainable and inspiring for the next generation (LEGO plans to remove all single-use plastic packaging from its materials by 2025, for example). Could your employees aim to reduce paper waste in your office or focus on energy conservation?

3. Create team experiences that help

An excellent way to unite teams and empower employees to participate in social change is to volunteer together. Employees often don’t have time outside of work hours to volunteer. Providing the time and opportunities at work tells your people you care about what’s important to them and are willing to act on it.

Volunteering is a tremendous opportunity for employees and employers that too often gets overlooked. It allows organizations to support CSR and boost connections with customers, investors, and employees. For employees, it opens the door to improve or explore skills and even realize untapped leadership potential—not to mention that people are just happier when they can contribute to solving problems they care about.

The good news is that volunteering opportunities exist in every city, state, and country. There’s also a wide variety of activities available to choose from. Volunteering can bring your people together toward a shared goal, whether you’re helping soup kitchens, hosting food and toy drives, planting trees, or organizing events related to Black History Month or Pride events. It will likely be fun, too.

The campaign for increased corporate social responsibility is about helping communities and causes first and foremost. It can (and will) also have an impact on profitability, bottom lines, and how well organizations can keep their employees engaged and inspired in this new age of remote work. It’s the ultimate win-win situation.


This article was written by Sue Bingham and Gloria St. Martin-Lowry from Quartz and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to

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