Why Employers Should Incentivise Their CSR Initiatives

 If you want to drive behaviour change and help employees to embrace your CSR policy with open arms, you need to keep it front of mind.

A good staff incentives and rewards programme can help you do just that… 

It’s a cynical world we live in. Yet ‘doing good’ is becoming increasingly important when it comes to having real business success.

Everybody who’s anybody has a solid CSR policy in place – whether that’s giving back to the world at large, or supporting employees with fair working policies and upholding ethical standards. And as we all know by now, CSR plays a vital part in boosting productivity and motivating employees.

If you’re sitting there rolling your eyes, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. But if you’re bored of hearing about the financial rewards of CSR, then chances are, you’re not doing it right.

As Sodexo’s research showed, 87% believe that the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance. While 64% won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility. (Cone Communications).

Yet with many organisations pumping money into their CSR strategies at a rate of knots, it seems this might not be enough to create valid impact.

We look at how incentives and rewards can help you drive behaviour change and ensure your CSR strategy really turns heads…


Employees will see through any thinly veiled attempts to implement CSR for its own financial gain. ‘Doing good’ shouldn’t just be about boosting your company’s reputation.

Nobody wants to be ‘caught out’. Unless your CSR policy is more than just the paper it’s written on, your employees will soon switch off. And with 45% of staff looking to move jobs within two years, competition to attract talent is going to be fierce.

Oh, and add in the stat that 58% would be deterred from joining an organisation as an employee, if it had a bad track record in terms of social responsibility, and you may have a problem.

So, what can you do to stamp out cynicism and bring everyone into the positive world of CSR? Simple: You just have to position “employees as the actual enactors, with the company acting as an enabler” (MIT Sloan).

It’s all about incentives and rewards.


The good news is, you can instil ‘strong’ social responsibility by incentivising performance and recognising success as you do it. When you implement staff incentives and rewards around your CSR activity, you can drive behaviour change and increase employee engagement altogether.  

In fact, with the right engagement specialists on board, incentive programmes can help managers to successfully integrate corporate values and leverage CSR as an employee reward.  

Start by actively involving staff in your CSR strategy.

The modern workforce want to be a part of this rather than just seeing CSR in practice. If you can align your strategy to support causes close to their hearts, you can win over just about any cynical thinker.

Do this and you will motivate staff who, let’s be honest, in spite of CSR’s rising popularity, might not really give a fig about your charity work overseas, but who might be engaged by activity closer to home.

Here are the main areas all organisations should be focusing on as they move to a more sustainable future: 

1. Philanthropy

Giving money to charity is just the tip of the iceberg. We can’t all be Bill Gates, but we can do our bit to show we help those who don’t just help us.

  • Get employees actively involved by offering time off to volunteer at a local organisation that matters to them. 
  • Go one step further and incentivise this commitment to truly set your business apart as a caring employer of choice. 

Remember, charity can be big business these days, so if you’re giving to an organisation that’s committed to saving the planet, you’d better check everything else in your business is operating as ethically as it can. For example, there’s no point investing pensions in funds that are linked with poor environmental policies. That’s like giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Not that anyone wants to tell you how to run your business, but you get the drift. 

‘Brilliant days’ programmes
These are where managers can target employee teams across multiple touchpoints, so for example, this might be across all of a company’s retail stores. The teams have the chance to be shortlisted to win a fantastic day trip, based on their numbers. The winning team is then chosen using a selection of criteria which includes their direct impact on the community around them.

Global campaign, local feel
Employers who put a more localised stamp on a global campaign such as ‘stop hunger’ or ‘beat cancer’ can allow greater personalisation and segmentation. For example, by setting up some activity that results in donations to local food banks or hospices.

Whether that’s a bake sale, a cycle-a-thon using exercise bikes in the office or a ‘wear a hat’ day, if you engage on a smaller, more local level, you can inject camaraderie into the workplace and even bring in staff rewards for those who really take the cause to their hearts.

2. Equality and diversity

Nurture a culture where employees’ needs are put first. From the moment they arrive, make yours a workplace that celebrates its staff and shows them that their achievements matter. A generous employee benefits package that’s tailored to their life stage is an essential part of this, along with powerful rewards and staff recognition schemes.

Make this an ongoing commitment to help motivate and engage employees. 

  • Do you have a health and wellbeing programme?
  • Consider aspects like flexible working, your gender pay gap, promotions, training and development, plus attitudes to part-time and remote working employees.
  • What can you do to support older workers to boost diversity and equality?

At every step, focus on whether your organisation is really talking the talk when it comes to looking after your employees. If you’re not flexible with people when they need that flexibility – such as time off in case of a family emergency – will they be fooled by any outward gestures of philanthropy?

The chances are, your employees will think you only commit to grand acts to look good. But looking good and doing good are two very different things.

Awards and employee events
When you recognise employee achievements and celebrate the remarkable, such as employee milestones that demonstrate a long-term commitment to your business, you can create very real and honest people engagement.

Employee awards can have a powerful impact. Throw an event to say thank you, take your staff away or put together personalised awards, merchandise or certificates and presentations.

Whatever you do will show that you’re trying to connect with employees in new and novel ways to drive work engagement.  

3. Environmental impact

Everyone wants businesses to be more sustainable in their approach to the big, wide world. But if you’re saying one thing yet doing another, people will react negatively to that. 

  • Think about the little things, like whether you use longer lasting energy bulbs? Do you help employees to recycle and reuse as they go?
  • Are you working with suppliers who are also committed to a green agenda?

The bad news is, as Sodexo’s study shows, only 22% strongly agree that their organisation practices what it preaches when it comes to the social and environmental sustainability of the business.

If you can communicate what it is the business is doing, and what you want your employees to do on a regular basis, this can drive people engagement within any CSR strategy focused around the environment.

Employee competitions and incentives
Showcase how your company is actively saving – whether that’s energy or paper or whatever the focus may be. Bring this data to regular company meetings and set competitions for teams who change behaviour in this way.

By doing this, you’re acknowledging that an on-going commitment is required when it comes to inspiring employees to immerse themselves in any kind of initiative.

Regular reminders and staff incentives won’t hurt to keep your green CSR initiatives front of mind. Make it fun and employees won’t just think it’s about making money.


Why should you do any of this? Well the research certainly stacks up, indicating that CSR is something that’s becoming more and more important to the various working generations. 

  • 84% of Gen X and 77% of Baby Boomers consider a company’s sustainability to be important. 
  • 85% of global consumers say how a company responds to issues and crises is an important factor in their opinion of the organisation overall (Weber Shandwick).
  • 40% of employees aged 45 and over would like to be given more opportunities to ‘give back’ to the community and wider society than they get at the moment.
  • 86% of employees involved in, and in favour of the CSR policies within their organisation, say they feel highly engaged.
Yes, CSR can impact on everything from an organisation’s reputation, all the way down to its bottom line. But it’s only when the approach at boardroom level is consistent and authentic that these benefits will actually materialise.

With a well thought out staff incentives and rewards programme in place, you can start to drive positive behaviour change, connecting the purpose and values of your business and making sense of everything that surrounds it.

That gets a big thumbs up from us. Just imagine what it could do for your employee engagement…

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