Corporate Social Responsibility in 2019: 5 Trends Leaders Should Know About

Corporate Social Responsibility in 2019: 5 Trends Leaders Should Know About

Corporate social responsibility is no longer optional; it’s expected. Here are five trends that today’s business leaders need to be aware of.


  • 75% of millennials expect their employers to take a stand on social issues.
  • In a polarized political climate, successful corporate social responsibility requires authenticity and open dialogue.
  • Companies are increasingly measuring the results of corporate social responsibility campaigns, ensuring that they align with business objectives.

Corporate social responsibility in increasingly becoming a buzzword — and a consumer expectation. Businesses are facing external and internal pressures to act in socially responsible ways, tackling issues related to sustainability, social advocacy, and more. And, corporate leaders, in response, are increasingly paying attention.

A recent study by Glassdoor found that 75% of employees between the ages of 18 and 24 expect employers to take a stand on social issues ranging from immigration and equal rights to climate change. Not only that, 84% of U.S. workers of all ages believe that companies have an important role to play in proposed legislation, regulation, and executive orders.

In 2019, donating to charities is no longer enough. Writing for Forbes, Community Health Charities President and CEO Thomas Bognanno points out that today, “corporate leaders are aligning social impact and employee engagement with business objectives.” Companies are evaluating the effects of corporate social responsibility to ensure that these efforts “demonstrate real value to the company.”

Staying abreast of trends, expectations, and issues related to corporate social responsibility is a must for today’s business leaders.

5 corporate social responsibility trends leaders should know about

1) Authenticity

Let’s start with one that’s likely here to stay. Social media has rapidly accelerated the expectation that companies should be both authentic and transparent in their digital marketing. It’s had a similar effect when it comes to corporate social responsibility.

Companies are learning to actively promote authentic social engagement, whether through encouraging internal dialogue among employees or company leaders’ sharing personal messages related to important issues. From Dan Schulman of PayPal standing up against North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” to Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy voicing his opposition to gay marriage, corporate leaders across the political spectrum are increasingly speaking out authentically.

[bctt tweet=”Companies are learning to actively promote authentic social engagement, whether through encouraging internal dialogue among employees or company leaders’ sharing personal messages related to important issues.” username=”Fronetics”]

As Bognanno points out, however, “Aligning a corporate brand with social issues can backfire if it’s not done thoughtfully and with authenticity, so be sure to understand your brand, measure stakeholder interest, and align with issues that resonate.”

2) Dialogue

In times of deep political and social division, companies and corporate leaders are increasingly recognizing their role in fostering dialogue. In fact, one expert predicts that dialogue is replacing taking a stand when it comes to corporate social responsibility in 2019.

“Faced with the prospect of a divided government in Washington, a looming presidential election in 2020, and the fact that some companies are seeking more federal oversight of their work in areas like data security, businesses will tone down their public advocacy in favor of more dialogue on the issues,” writes leadership strategy expert Timothy J. McClimon.

Whether increased dialogue comes at the expense of advocacy or goes hand-in-hand with it, the fact is that it’s a trend to watch. Companies like Campbell’s are stepping up their efforts to engage employees in social dialogue, using platforms like Workplace by Facebook. Externally, Campbell’s UnCanned by Campbell’s campaign has promoted open conversations on “real food,” GMOs, MSG, BPA, and more.

3) Educational opportunities

Workplaces are arguably far more complex environments than they were a few decades ago. The #metoo movement, for example, has thrown glaring light on issues of sexism and sexual harassment, and companies are tackling them not only with policy, but through education to enact real and lasting changes to corporate culture.

Whether it’s internal training classes, peer-to-peer dialogues, or formal executive education classes in corporate social responsibility at programs like Harvard and Wharton, companies are encouraging personnel to educate themselves on the complex issues we face in the modern workplace.

4) Preventing or mitigating disasters

Disaster relief has been considered a primary corporate social responsibility for generations. American Express, for example, has made disaster relief grants dating back to 1872. However, as natural disasters become more and more frequent globally, companies are looking at new approaches to tackling this issue.

While companies are expected to continue their relief efforts for natural disaster victims, there’s a trend toward increasing proactivity. This means helping communities build up resiliency, as well as taking a tough look at business practices that may be leading to or worsening natural disasters.

“While most natural disasters cannot be prevented from occurring, the impact on people can be mitigated or even largely eliminated through better urban and rural planning, and more restrictions on building and development,” writes McClimon. Companies are increasingly seeing these efforts as a key aspect of their corporate social responsibility.

5) Measuring results

Corporate social responsibility is increasingly being viewed not as a nicety, but as an aspect of doing business – and that means it needs to be measured, evaluated, and adjusted accordingly. Benefits of corporate social responsibility range from increased employee satisfaction to increased creativity, and companies are looking to quantify results.

Recent campaigns from Nike and Gillette have demonstrated that a strong stand on important and controversial issues can have varying consequences for a company’s bottom line. In its essence, corporate responsibility is about serving global interests without regard for gain, but companies are increasingly recognizing that for advocacy to be effective, it needs to align with business interests.

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