Just 54% of companies have a formal CSR plan for 2023, Skillsoft reveals

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft

Skillsoft, a platform for transformative learning experiences, released its new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Work Report, benchmarking organisations’ current Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and highlighting areas for opportunity and improvement.

Based on insights from over 1,000 professionals, the report found that 72% of respondents’ organisations are investing more in CSR now than before the pandemic. Despite this positive trend, just over half (54%) say their firm has a formal CSR plan in place for the coming year.

What were the findings of Skillsoft’s survey?

As challenges surrounding ethical leadership, corporate governance, and climate change continue to rise, CSR initiatives must be top of mind for both employers and employees. In addition to demonstrating a commitment to “doing the right thing” – which the largest portion of respondents (40%) said was the biggest influencer of their firm’s CSR priorities – investing in CSR creates a halo effect of benefits, including a direct impact to the bottom line.

In fact, Skillsoft found that 57% of respondents who reported their organisations making an investment in CSR also reported 25% or more in business growth year-over-year (YoY). Skillsoft’s report revealed that the top three CSR program priorities are diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), improving labor policies, and participating in fair trade, respectively.

Despite recent devastating storms and a global pandemic, organisations’ lowest priority is disaster relief and preparedness. When asked about the top barriers to implementing a successful CSR program, respondents cited regulations and standards, customer awareness, and reputation value, underscoring the importance of clear communication and securing cross-functional buy-in. Additional takeaways from Skillsoft’s 2022 report include:

Lines are blurring between CSR and ESG

  • 54% of respondents said they use the terms “CSR” and “ESG” interchangeably.
  • Yet, 53% say their organisation’s focus remains on CSR because it covers a broader range of issues than ESG.
  • 46% say ESG efforts are replacing CSR efforts as companies face increased pressure to provide and measure against program objectives.

The way CSR programs are funded, led, and measured varies greatly

  • Just 70% of survey respondents say their organisation publishes an annual CSR report. Of those, 57% and 43% work for private and public businesses, respectively, with the former being more willing to “lift the curtain.”
  • While there is no typical “owner” of CSR initiatives, executive leadership teams (20%) most commonly manage programs, followed by HR (16%) and operations (12%).
  • The top three ways for measuring CSR program success are through the health and security of employees and community members, social contributions, and greenhouse gas emissions, respectively.

There is plenty of room for improvement

  • While a larger portion of organisations (37%) report a level of CSR maturity, 11% said that initiatives are still largely “ad hoc and chaotic,” leading to internal confusion.
  • The top way organisations plan to address CSR-related issues is by offering training to employees (42%), followed by committing time and people resources (34%), investing in long-term plans (33%), and creating authentic connections and partnerships (20%).

What do the findings mean in the grand scheme?

Commenting on the findings, Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, Chief Marketing Officer, Skillsoft, said, “Today’s definition of CSR is vastly different from the optional altruism of the past. Organisations must hold themselves accountable, ensuring their policies and practices benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, and the greater community.”

“While it’s encouraging to see increasing levels of investment in CSR, firms must make more deliberate, long-term commitments to becoming responsible businesses. This requires taking a hard look at what they stand for, while also building the right infrastructure and securing organisational commitment to turn effort into positive action that benefits the greater good.”