Posted by: Emma Hickey, Senior Content Contributor
When I was last visiting my family, I found myself in a conversation with several relatives about my job hunt at the time. I remember explaining the type of role I was looking for and the type of company where I wanted to work. I told them I hoped to work for a company with values similar to mine, and that it was important to me to work somewhere with a strong social giveback program. “Millennials!” was the response I got. My family agreed with what I was saying, but they were also laughing at me because a company’s social mission wasn’t even in the realm of things to consider when they were job hunting at my age. They were right, I was approaching my job hunt as only a millennial would.
More so than any generation before, millennials care about working for, and consuming products and services from, socially responsible companies. A Cone Communications study on millennial employee engagement found the following:
- 75% [of millennials] say they would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company (vs. 55% U.S. average)
- 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues (vs. 70% U.S. average)
- 88% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues (vs. 74% U.S. average)
- 76% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work (vs. 58% U.S. average)
- 64% won’t take a job from a company that doesn’t have strong CSR practices (vs. 51% U.S. average)
As if those percentages don’t speak loudly enough, it’s also important to note that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in the US by 2025, according to a Brookings Institute report. If you’re looking to hire, retain, and engage millennials at your business, then you have to develop a social mission.
The idea of developing and then incorporating a social mission into your business might be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t baked it into your company culture from the start. There are so many causes to get behind, organizations to work with, and ways to support them. Ultimately, there’s no wrong way to give back to the community, but there are ways that are more effective than others. A measured, focused approach is the best strategy to maximize the impact and success of your social giveback initiative, and there are several ways to find that focus for your organization. Let’s walk through four different ways to think about corporate social missions, and take a look at a few companies who are succeeding.
Maximum Employee Engagement
Companies that center their social mission around maximum employee engagement aim to involve as many people as possible in volunteer work. From volunteering at soup kitchens, to cleaning up public parks, to packing boxes of disaster relief supplies, companies with this mission set up group opportunities and encourage everyone to participate.
Deloitte is a good example of a company that approaches their social mission in this way. They host Impact Day annually, where 23,600 employees volunteer together on 980 different projects. Deloitte also operates volunteer programs throughout the year, but Impact Day is designed to involve and engage as many employees as possible.
Companies focused on maximum impact in their social giveback efforts look for things they can do that will directly lead to the most change. These types of corporate programs center around the question, “what can we do that will go the furthest to make a difference?”
Donating malaria nets to regions in need is a great example of this type of social impact work. The World Health Organization reports that a child dies from malaria every two minutes. The spread of malaria can be dramatically reduced by malaria nets, which are easy to use and relatively affordable. If your goal is to affect change that’s significant in as many lives as possible, this sort of initiative might be the right fit for you. The NBA does just that by partnering with the Nothing But Net campaign to distribute insect-treated bed nets to areas in need.
Align with Your Company’s Mission
Your company’s social impact work doesn’t have to be departure from your company’s overall mission. Your team may be even more motivated to work on social giveback projects that incorporate the same goals they work towards everyday in the office.
The founder of S’well, a reusable water bottle company, started her business with the goal of reducing plastic water bottle consumption. They’ve since partnered with UNICEF USA to provide clean drinking water to communities in need and with American Forests, an organization that protects and restores forests. These two partners perfectly align with both what S’well makes–water bottles–and how S’well makes them–eco-friendly. S’well does important charity work while also remaining consistent in their company’s goals.
Impact Your Neighborhood
As a company, you take up physical space in a neighborhood and it’s important to be aware of how your presence influences that community. This approach to a social mission focuses on positively impacting the neighborhood you’re in. This issue is a great struggle in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, where income inequality is among the starkest in the country. The tech industry is exacerbating this problem rather than working to solve it, something that has drawn many criticisms over the past few years. Focusing your company’s social mission around this topic would be a step towards aiding problems like this.
Over on the east coast, an example of a company actively working to positively impact their community is IKEA in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Red Hook is home to the largest public housing development in Brooklyn and earned a rocky reputation during the 80’s and 90’s. As of 2008, it’s also home to a large IKEA store. IKEA’s presence dramatically affected footrack in the neighborhood and its overall economy. In order to make sure the changes they caused were as positive as possible, IKEA has partnered with several neighborhood-based organizations, including the Red Hook Senior Center and the Red Hook Houses Tenant Association.
In choosing how to focus your company’s social mission, you’re also deciding what you will not be focusing on. That may feel a bit strange at first. You might even find yourself wondering, “How can we NOT help to feed the hungry, and also save the whales, and cure cancer, and support the arts and run a mentorship program?!” They’re all good causes, but you have to remember that you can’t do everything. Your social mission cannot focus on everything, and that’s ok, because your work will have the most significant impact when it’s targeted. And that’s the impact millennials crave. The fact that charity and volunteer work satisfy a major need of an entire generation is a beautiful thing, and you ought to take advantage of that to both attract all-star millennials to your organization and to do some good. You just have to decide on your goal.