by Elizabeth Biar

Do you remember a time when corporate community engagement existed to further the CEO’s personal interests or the charity work of a board member?  Community engagement programs of the past were not always focused on an effort to help the community.  Today, a different generation of leadership is advocating for community engagement programs that fit the socially conscious investors and employees.

Community engagement, as part of a company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria, has many benefits to the company, employees, customers, shareholders, and the community.  Companies continue to grow their roles in giving back to help the needs of the community. It takes more than just writing a check to have a successful engagement program.

Boosts employee engagement

Research has shown that employee job satisfaction increases when companies encourage their employees to engage with the community and non-profit organizations.  As a result, companies experience less turnover and higher employee morale. Today, employees are looking for meaningful ways to contribute.  Volunteering in the community also gives employees a way to work alongside supervisors and co-workers, strengthening relationships within the company.  A Deloitte survey showed that millennials are twice as likely to be very satisfied with their career when their employer provides volunteer opportunities and are 24 percent more likely to recommend their company to a friend.   Additionally, HP provided information showing that employees who participated in community engagement have 13 percent higher morale than those who did not participate.

Integrating a company’s purpose with the community

By engaging in the community, companies show support for their employees’ communities and also provide the opportunity to showcase the company’s values, such as diversity and skills development.  While there are many good causes to choose from, a company should select groups that align with the company’s mission and business.  For example, a technology company may choose to work with a local high school STEM program providing mentoring and hands-on training. Alternatively, a candy company may decide to work with a food pantry.

Customers want community engagement

A report from Neilson states that 55 percent of consumers say they will pay more for products or services from organizations that show a commitment to positive environmental and social impact.  A study by the PR and Marketing company Cone found that 59 percent of Americans are more likely to purchase a service or product associated with a corporate-non-profit partnership.  Moreover, research by the group IO Sustainability found that integrating ESG into a company can increase sales by 20 percent.  Engaging with the community can really pay off.

Look for responsible community partners

When looking for community partners, be sure you pick a cause that is a good fit for your employees, as they will be doing a great deal of the heavy load in volunteering.  Review your mission statement to find a cause that fits your values and goals and supports your business plan.  Look for reputable organizations who will be responsible community partners. You absolutely do not want the partnership to backfire and your company to receive negative press when the intentions were honorable.

It takes more than just writing a check to be considered community engaged today.  Through research and strategic planning, companies should commit to the best causes which fit their goals and values in which to make a societal and environmental impact.  By engaging in the community, all stakeholders can benefit for the long-term.

Elizabeth Biar is Vice President of Strategic Public Affairs, a government relations, PR and Communications firm based in Houston.

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