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What does Effective CSR Look Like in Practice?

Effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs have been shown to drive beneficial outcomes for employee wellbeing – and the bottom line. Find concrete examples of companies implementing CSR to positively impact their workforce and community.

What Do Strong CSR Programs Look Like?

As we’ve already seen in the second part of this three-part series, How CSR Improves Employee Well-Being and the Bottom Line, companies with mission-driven and employee-led Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are more impactful and maintain thriving cultures. When planned and implemented well, these CSR initiatives serve both the company’s workforce and the surrounding local or global community. 

In this article, we will explore examples of industry-leading companies employing CSR for the betterment of both their organizations and their communities. Additionally, we will share how we at Sia Partners keep CSR at our core through local and global initiatives.

Corporate Responsibility Toward Environmental, Ethical, Philanthropic, And Economic Concerns

As described in the first part of this three part series, Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing Good is Good Business, effective CSR programs strive for positive outcomes in four areas: environmental, ethical, philanthropic, and economic initiatives. Here, learn how companies are focusing on these areas to benefit their workforce and community.

Environmental: Companies should consider how their internal practices affect the local and global environment within which they operate. For example, companies that consume a vast amount of natural resources as a foundation for their product or service have an obligation to seek and implement practices which minimize harm to the environment. CSR programs should focus on initiatives to implement practical and sustainable solutions which help companies address these concerns. Adidas exemplifies an effective environmental-focused CSR practice by partnering with Parley for the Oceans (global non-profit organization) to manufacture their shoes from recycled material reclaimed from the world’s oceans. At a global scale, Adidas is one of the largest producers of shoes and clothing, so it’s no surprise that their potential negative impact on the environment is high. Creating a partnership with Parley allows them to minimize their environmental footprint and also mitigate existing environmental issues. Regardless of size or industry, companies can and should follow the example set by Adidas and work to determine how they can positively impact their local and global environments while minimizing practices that could cause harm.

Philanthropic: Corporate philanthropy was popularized during the late 20th century, and has become a recognizable element of most CSR programs since. More than direct financial contribution, companies can leverage their vast infrastructure and network of partners to increase the effectiveness of their giving. Leading the way for outdoor enthusiasts is REI, who recently launched their ‘Path Ahead Ventures’, “a new initiative that will invest $30 million dollars in 300 founders of color as they start and scale their businesses in the outdoor industry” [2]. Through this initiative, REI will use its network, capabilities, and community to partner with Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian-American entrepreneurs to build their businesses faster. By partnering with smaller businesses/organizations, REI is able to accelerate the growth of these entrepreneurs and businesses, giving them a kickstart into the marketplace. “Path Ahead Ventures is an opportunity to collaborate with founders of color to create an outdoor industry where economic opportunity, success, and influence reflect the true diversity of people who love, protect, and share life outside”, says REI CVP of development and investment, Susan Vicon. REI’s deployment of direct financial contribution undergirded by their established infrastructure shows how a company can responsibly impact an industry that they occupy based on core values like equity and beneficence. 

Ethical: When focusing on ethics, CSR initiatives will feel most authentic and impactful to employees when they are embedded within an organization’s operations rather than as a standalone department. LinkedIn’s work in responsible design is a prime example. With a focus on trust, accessibility, and equity, researchers and designers collaborate with LinkedIn’s product teams to ensure that LinkedIn’s services are designed for safe and inclusive outcomes for all LinkedIn customers. To ensure that LinkedIn builds products that are safe for all, designers run workshop formats to uncover ways bad actors might misuse their platform and explore potential unintended outcomes of new features. LinkedIn also built its design system around accessibility, ensuring that the components of new products are accessible by default. To operationalize ethics, LinkedIn embeds subject matter experts and advocates throughout the organization to train team members in their ethical focus areas and build tools and resources to enable teams to build ethically. Finally, LinkedIn’s trust team developed a framework that sets ground rules for designers building trust-forward products. 

Economic: For true economic responsibility, CSR programs should focus inward on the employers’ impact on employees’ livelihoods as much as on the outward economic impacts of their operations. PayPal did just this, making employee financial health a business priority. In 2018, the company assessed how well its own employee experience lived up to its mission to “democratize financial services to ensure that everyone, regardless of background or economic standing, has access to affordable, convenient and secure products and services to take control of their financial lives”. To their surprise, they discovered that nearly two-thirds of their hourly and entry-level employees were living nearly paycheck-to-paycheck, prompting them to rethink their economic responsibility toward their workers. To improve their employees’ financial well-being, they reduced healthcare costs, granted stock awards, raised wages, and began offering access to personal financial education. Two years later, PayPal saw employees’ net disposable income rise to 18%, an outcome much more aligned with their corporate mission.

Our Approach at Sia Partners

At Sia Partners, we strive to be a purpose-driven company with CSR at our core. Working from the inside out, we approach CSR through a combination of internal- and external-facing initiatives to drive positive impact for both our employees and our client partners.

Our convictions center around three ambitions:

  • We strive to be an engaged consulting firm by minimizing our environmental impact and engaging with local communities.
  • We aim to be a next-level employer by supporting the career development of our employees, promoting diversity and inclusion, and fostering a sense of community.
  • We endeavor to be a trusted partner by remaining uncompromising on ethics and compliance, and maintaining responsible relationships with our suppliers.

These ambitions come to life in our Consulting For Good program. Through Consulting For Good, we align our internal strategy, operations, and culture with CSR, as well as the support we offer our clients via innovative offerings centered on sustainability.

Consulting For Good operates across four pillars, which we call Labs for Good:

  • Climate Analysis
  • Social Responsibility
  • Ethics & Compliance
  • Responsible AI

From developing our own diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging commitments to advising clients on responsible purchasing, we strive to embed CSR in all that we do.

As we progress in our CSR efforts, we want to ensure that our initiatives are driving their intended impact. To benchmark our progress, we undergo annual external evaluation with international sustainability firm EcoVadis. We are proud to announce that Sia Partners has been rated "Gold" in 2021 (see the announcement here) for our outcomes in the areas of labor and human rights, the environment, ethics, and sustainable procurement. Our score places us in the 94th percentile across all companies in all industries. Learn more about our approach to CSR.

Using CSR To Benefit Business And Society

As corporations strive to align their business outcomes with a positive impact on society, we hope these examples serve as inspiration for the many shapes effective CSR programs can take on. If this topic resonates with you and you are ready to take steps to incorporate CSR into your business, please do get in touch. Our Consulting for Good program is committed to helping organizations around the world consider social responsibility and impact when tackling the tough challenges we all are facing today.


Curious to learn more? This piece is part of a three-part series on corporate social responsibility and employee well-being. Find Part 1: Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing Good Is Good Business and Part 2: How CSR Improves Employee Well-Being and the Bottom Line to learn more about CSR, why it matters and the benefits of implementing CSR in your organization.

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