Your customers and employees need a higher purpose, but how much is too much?

Three6 | 15 June 2020


The answer is quite simple, there’s no such thing as ‘too much’.

In recent times, there is a growing trend for purpose-led organisations to go beyond the traditional scope of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and to embrace a change in our societal and community expectations. There’s a growing need for people to commit to a higher purpose and proactively make a difference in the world around them. 

Purpose-led organisations are acting on the changing needs across their customer and employee base, and transforming the way they perceive and deliver strategic CSR, leveraging their work to positively impact their employee and customer experience and deliver sustained performance.

Purpose-led responsibility that goes beyond the minimum requirements to achieve a higher impact that recognises and leverages the effect on high employee engagement, motivation, workforce agility and builds a strong customer base.  

Researchers discuss an amazing example of CSR from GSK Pharmaceuticals that revolutionised the company’s purpose (Harvard Business Review):

“Contributing to the greater good is a fundamental human need. When a leader brings a voice and a vision, others will follow and surprising things can happen – even culture change on a large scale”.

Research on global CSR trends conducted by Forbes notes that “increasingly, employees are exercising their voices demanding that their corporate leaders get involved with their community and causes in ways unheard of just a few years ago”.

“People only truly believe their company has a purpose and clear values when they see management making a decision that sacrifices short-term profitability for the sake of adhering to those values” (HBR Research).

In summary, CSR that goes beyond the traditional scope makes a difference to higher customer satisfaction, higher market value of the organisation, all of which translate into increased profitability (Centre for Creative Leadership). 

As a leader or a team member, you have the power to share your voice and change the perspective of CSR for your organisation. You can do this on an individual, small group, team, function or organisational level.

Here are some suggestions to get thinking and help you to inspire change in the organisation you lead:

  • Ask yourself the HBR question – ‘has your organisation made a decision that sacrifices short-term profitability for the sake of adhering to those values?’
  • Explore your current employee engagement and psychological safety – deep CSR can create a strong positive impact on an organisation with a healthy culture.
  • Consider your organisational purpose as a guiding principle for CSR policy and action.
  • Aim to be innovative and industry-leading – consider how you can demonstrate your organisational purpose by speaking out on your community’s critical issues, particularly those which may have been overlooked or accepted in the past.
  • Use HCD to identify what your people want and need (employees and customers) as your organisation’s CSR. Embed CSR as a way of working and processes.
  • Evaluate your processes to ensure congruence and accessibility for employees and customers.
  • Go beyond minimum requirements to tap into employee motivation and purpose.
  • Consider what is possible in the current environment and start small.