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Corporate social responsibility in the workforce

Posted by Nikky Lee - 24 March, 2020

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is fast becoming a buzzword in the business world. Companies are not just expected to stimulate the economy and provide products and services to the community—they are expected to do good as well.

From environmentally sustainable and ethical labour practices to volunteering and philanthropy, businesses of today need to show both the public and their employees that they are contributing to society. 

Related content: The 10 Pillars of Employee Experience



CSR in New Zealand

Globally, 72 per cent of companies publicly report their CSR efforts, but New Zealand lags a little behind this average at 69 per cent1. While the good news is that the majority of Kiwi organisations are running CSR initiatives, there’s still room for growth. 

Issues such as fair pay and better wages, along with environmental conservation, sustainability and cost of living are often on the minds of New Zealanders—and in our headlines. And while customers are primarily driving businesses to conduct CSR, employees play a critical part too, with many looking to their employers to lead CSR activities in the workplace such as volunteering, charity drives and community clean ups. 


Types of corporate social responsibility

  • Philanthropy—charity drives and sponsorship.
  • Volunteering—plant trees, give blood, community clean ups.
  • Environmental leadership—recycling, carbon neutral.
  • Ethical labour practices—generous paid parental leave, competitive salaries.
  • Economic responsibility—company pays its taxes, invests back into communities, pays competitive wages.


Trends in corporate social responsibility

The ways companies give back to society vary and often reflect the issues that matter to their investor and consumers. In the last few years, ethical practices and sustainability have risen to the forefront of CSR. The Modern Slavery Act was introduced in Australia in 2018 and diversity became a top priority in Australian workplaces2, and in New Zealand, Westpac New Zealand became the first bank accredited as a living wage employer in 2019. 

Our own In Good Company research, done in collaboration with Porter Novelli and the Sustainability Business Council, also highlights the importance of environmental responsibility with 87 per cent of New Zealanders saying that sustainability is a concern for them.

“Customers are increasingly becoming more likely to research the sustainability practices of brands, and they are demanding more information,” says James Walker, Executive Director for Sustainability at Porter Novelli. “Our research shows that 71 per cent of New Zealanders are actively researching this before making a product purchase and that’s a sign that businesses need to step up.”


Four steps to CSR success

  1. Understand your stakeholders. Who are your customers? Who are your staff? What is important to them? What social and environmental issues have affected them? What issues do they care about?
  2. Keep their values in mind. When making business decisions, consider “does this address a CSR issue that’s important to our stakeholders?”
  3. Keep up the talk. Ask them: what issues matter to you? What can the business do to give back to the community? What can we do better?
  4. Show accountability. Report your CSR initiatives—the good, the bad and the ugly.3


Important! If you are a New Zealand business, you must follow the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) code for CSR reporting. 

Corporate social responsibility plays an important role in not only showing your customers that you care about the community, but for engaging your employees and strengthening your workplace culture and employee experience under a common cause. 


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  1. KPGM, Corporate responsibility reporting: NZ companies need to lift their game, 2017.
  2. Deloitte, 2018 State of CSR in Australia & New Zealand report, 2018.
  3. Deloitte, 2018 State of CSR in Australia & New Zealand report, 2018.

Topics: Employee Experience

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