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Sustainability CSR

How CSR and employee benefits are a match made in heaven


Bringing your CSR and benefits together is a progressive step, and those businesses that move with the times will stay on top.

16th Mar 2022
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My very first job out of university was as a benefits assistant, so let’s just say that I’ve been involved with employee benefits for a ‘few’ years. And over these years, I’ve seen major changes in how organisations develop their benefits strategies and select their benefit programmes. 

Breaking it down

To explain this evolution, let me share with you how I break it out into three unique phases. My aim for sharing them is to encourage companies to evolve into the third phase, reaping the benefits of the first two, and then moving on so that your benefits can meet the needs of your changing workforce 

1. The power to retain

The first phase was when we realised that employee benefits could be an integral part in helping to attract and retain our workforce. I know this may seem like a given, but before this we all pretty much provided the same benefit programmes and had little to no strategy. Armed with this knowledge, we began to look through a ‘competitive’ lens when reviewing and developing our benefit programmes.

64% of Millennials won’t take a job if their employee doesn’t have a strong CSR policy, and 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues

2. Aligning with company values

The next phase came as we evolved our approach and our strategies to align with our company values. For the first time, we saw the importance of having benefits that were not just competitive, but spoke to who we were as a company through our values.

I went through this process many times at my various companies, using our values to guide and direct how we adapted, added or even removed our benefit programmes. An example is when I changed a previous company’s vacation benefit to align with our value that talked about treating everyone fairly. We removed the rules that gave people with more years of service more entitlement as it didn’t tick the fairness value box.

3. Evolving your offer

The next phase is where some companies have gone in their evolution by aligning their employee benefits with their CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy. Whether it’s giving employees paid time off to volunteer to support causes important to them, or align their pensions investments with the government’s net zero targets for carbon emissions through the Green Pensions Charter, companies are taking it to that next level to create an intersection or overlap between CSR and employee benefits.

By doing this, it acts as a way to attract employees who are eager to make a difference in the world, supporting their interests and passions through these benefit programmes. According to The Cone Communications Millennial Employee Study, 64% of Millennials won’t take a job if their employee doesn’t have a strong CSR policy, and 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.

Making waves in CSR

An example of an organisation who’s moved into this third phase is Ooni Pizza Ovens, a multi award-winning business that sells products to pizza lovers all over the world. As a company, they’re committed to using business as a force for good, with 1% of their annual revenue going towards social and environmental causes.

As they say on their website, “We want the world to have great pizza and we want to do it in a way that helps our communities and limits our negative impact on our environment, so that future generations can enjoy a healthy planet. ​We only have 1 planet to make pizza on.”

One of the six areas included in their roadmap towards a ‘great positive impact’ is team engagement, which harnesses their collective good and kindness (one of their company values) to embed best practises into their team’s everyday work, processes and decision-making. “We’re a kind business made up of kind people. Being a company for good is in the Ooni DNA. But we’re ambitious and always push to do better!”

To support their people in doing their part, and doing better, in January 2021 they launched a company-wide campaign with Do Nation to pledge to take healthy actions for people and the planet. Team members choose two or three sustainable actions and pledged to do them for two months. To drive engagement and link back to the theme, Ooni gave out vouchers for zero waste stores and made donations to the Scottish Wildlife Fund as prizes for the team saving the most carbon.

Ooni has shown the power and impact an employee benefit like this can have on their people, and also on something as important as the planet

Since then, they have taken it to the next level by launching a new employee benefit programme through Pawprint. They use the Pawprint app to calculate individual footprints (‘Pawprint’), drive awareness and understanding of climate change and encourage meaningful and sustainable changes and habits - both individually and collectively. 

Soon after launching Pawprint, they had a company-wide sprint and collectively saved 11 tons of carbon (equivalent to driving around the world once). In a recent Sprint, they put people into teams, “having some good-natured competition to drive engagement and action,” said Elspeth Simpson, Impact & Sustainability Coordinator. 

Ooni has shown the power and impact an employee benefit like this can have on their people, and also on something as important as the planet. By aligning it with their CSR it multiplies the impact the organisation can collectively make, and at the same time acts as a way to connect their people to the company, their purpose and to one another. And . . .  help to save the planet!

Time to take CSR seriously

Here are some tips to help you move to this third phase:

  • Talk to your employees to understand what parts of your CSR are most important to them.
  • Explore the marketplace to understand what new benefit providers have emerged to support your CSR initiatives.
  • Present a business case to introduce these new benefits, aligning them with your CSR to show the synergy and alignment.

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