Why your CSR policy needs to put people at its core

A dazzling corporate social responsibility programme is one thing, but if you aren’t looking after your people, just how credible is it?


If the Trump era has taught us anything, it’s that being nice matters.

Social issues and a sense of purpose have well and truly moved centre stage and companies that fail to acknowledge this need to get with the CSR programme.

Yet as our nation becomes increasingly quick to be incensed by apathetic and thoughtless actions of large corporates, for businesses, it means you’re going to need a robust and fail-safe corporate social responsibility programme.

After all, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of collected outrage as it begins to reach boiling point. The power of social media is a force to be reckoned with. For businesses, ‘nice’ is the new now.

So, how can you future-proof your CSR programme? Simple. Put your people first.


Well, most of us haven’t got a crystal ball, but one thing we do know is that how you treat people really matters.

The Presidents’ Club scandal proved one thing. It showed us that raising vast pots of money for charitable organisations is all very well, but if you don’t treat people properly as you do it, you’re not doing the right thing. 

A good CSR policy is about more than just giving to charity and doing good in the outside world. It’s about putting meaning into what you do.

Sodexo’s ‘2017 Be the Change CSR Survey’ tells us that it’s “time for organisations to walk the walk, or risk alienating themselves in a society that’s increasingly characterised by the liberal thinking of its youngest generations.”

The report states that “organisations must change the way they do business by connecting behaviours, values and the global community in seamless and authentic ways.”

Employees and consumers will soon see through innocuous acts of giving that have little meaning or impact on the world around them. For managers, that means action stations.

As Sasha Hanau of The Happiness Index, tells us, “the modern employee cares more about purpose than perks.”

You can play the game, but who are you really impressing?


As we enter a new era of activism, rarely a day goes by without a hashtag or an emerging trend appearing around diversity and empowerment of minority groups.

We’ve seen that it’s pertinent to be calling out inappropriate behaviour – and rightly so. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to be at the forefront of this.

And when you encourage behaviour change from within, you can start doing more than just ticking those corporate social responsibility boxes.

We’ve heard that millennial of the moment, Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame, gave a cool £1million to a fund for sexual harassment victims. This was part of the Time’s Up movement in Great Britain where the newly created UK Justice and Equality Fund was announced on the back of damning revelations affecting the Entertainment industry and how its women are treated. 

It may have been a public outcry but the lasting effects will have an impact across all sectors and organisations.

It was certainly a good reminder that employers need to take even more care and make sure they’re aware of how their organisation treats all of its people, equally, fairly and respectfully, regardless of race, gender or position.

In fact, Emma Watson is just one of a long line of well known faces to make a very public stand against poor treatment of people. If companies follow suit and put some real effort and energy behind their CSR work, they won’t be accused of jumping on a bandwagon. They’ll be able to show the world that they work ethically, resourcefully, wisely – and crucially, kindly.


As Sodexo’s ‘Be the Change’ report states, employers should embrace their employees as part of any CSR strategy.

Jeffrey Hayzlett, keynote speaker and US marketing expert says, “If you’re looking to attract socially conscious talent, you have to characterise CSR as part of your overall workplace culture. Why? Because this could be the determining factor whether a prospective employee will choose you or go to a competitor.”

Ultimately, it’s no good acting like you care without putting your people first. And it’s not just about the ones who work directly around you either.

For example, if you’re a clothing retailer producing t-shirts to raise awareness for breast cancer, that’s great. But if you’re producing the bulk of your garments in a factory with bad working conditions, low pay – and even child labour – you need to act fast.

You don’t need us to tell you that the way you work is just as important as your next company charity campaign, or staff volunteering programme to give back to the local community.

Wherever people are working for you, you want them to be engaged in their jobs and, if you’re really paying attention, they’ll even be active champions for your brand. But that isn’t going to happen without input and effort from managers. It’s not enough to ‘have a CSR policy’. You have to live and breathe it or you won’t fool anyone.

To create credence and add value to your CSR programme, here are a few areas to think about… 


There’s a view that although companies are good at saying they’re inclusive to all, when it comes to putting this into practise, it may not be strictly true.

Yet if you can boost employee engagement and drive behaviour change in your work place by placing diversity and employee wellbeing at the heart of your company ethos, you’ll more than reap the rewards.

It'll not only show that you’re committed to improving quality of life but you’ll impact productivity, decrease stress, reduce absences and show you’re serious about making a positive difference in the world.

Here are a few ways to bring diversity to the top of your CSR agenda:

  • Address the gender pay gap
    From April 2018, large companies in the UK are expected, by law, to publish their gender pay gap data. You might not be personally able to address the fact your CEO is a man or that many of your part-time staff are women, but you could consider other ways to encourage women to take up training and development opportunities to even the balance. After all, a diverse workplace can bring lots of benefits for everyone.

    Show that you care about your employee’s economic wellbeing and the investment will pay off. After all, people engagement boosts productivity and saves businesses money in the long run. 
  • Make your workplace family friendly
    It’s not enough to just offer a good maternity package these days. From childcare vouchers to annual leave purchase schemes, and the way you support flexible working within your organisation, there is plenty of work to be done around helping parents stay engaged in the workplace.

    Are you doing everything you can to support Shared Parental Leave? Regular development and promotion opportunities for parents should be championed to help working parents feel supported and encouraged. But don’t just talk the talk – make sure these practices really are working in principle.

  • Take flexible working seriously
    Anything that helps staff to better manage their work-life balance is essential for maintaining employee engagement and empowering women in particular. We say this because, unfortunately, it still falls to women to provide the majority of caring at home, whether for children or elderly parents.

    As an employer, what you do will impact the chances women have to progress within your company and this should go some way to addressing your gender pay gap. Millennials are also seeking a more flexible approach to work however, so flexible working is not just a parent issue – it’s a very real, very in demand business issue.

  • Consider your part-time or remote workers
    Do part-time staff have the same opportunities for promotion, pay reviews and bonuses as full-time people? Do you ensure managers hold meetings when everyone is available to attend and encourage universal participation to promote diversity in the workplace?

    Make sure you don’t overlook staff who might not be visible on the shop floor or in your office. With remote working on the increase, blindsiding by bosses, while unintentional, may become a possibility.

  • Roll out an employee recognition platform
    By working with engagement specialists you can make sure you’re recognising success where it’s needed. It’ll help you to see that it isn’t the same old faces who are praised for going the extra mile and give all of your employees a chance to shine. And that can help you to retain talent that might otherwise walk out the door.

  • Implement a health and safety programme
    What are the working conditions like for all of your staff? Is there anything you could be doing better to look after your people to show that you’re serious about improving quality of life for your employees?

    A health and safety programme linked to staff recognition schemes could be the answer. When everyone in the office feels safe, they feel supported and this can have an impact on diversity at work.

  • Get rid of any outdated practises
    Whether it’s a sexist dress code or regular staff events that discourage inclusivity, have a look at what goes on within your organisation and make sure it isn’t skewed towards one set of employees over others. For example, if you only go on corporate golf events, it might be time to think outside the green and tee up a more varied range of employee events.

  • Stamp out ageism at work
    If you can keep older workers in your organisation for longer, you’ll really benefit from their skills and expertise. Whether that’s encouraging them to get involved with mentoring programmes or by recognising success with long service awards, when you make everyone in the workplace feel valued, you can boost talent retention and help improve diversity at work.

Be the Change - Inspiring and incentivising Employees