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Understanding the Role and Purpose of Corporate Social Responsibility

April 13, 2022
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Companies could simply donate a few hundred dollars here and some old computers there and call it good, right? So what is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?In the past, companies didn’t worry much about how they could give back. Sure, plenty of businesses gave money to their favorite charities and sponsored the local Little League team. While charitable donations of any type are commendable, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is something more. It is about holistic business practices that support a healthy economy and a strong global community for long-term sustainability, not just for the corporation, but for the world.In the ‘80s, there were a handful of corporations that built their legacies on giving back some part of their proceeds to support communities and provide for the underserved, like Newman’s Own and Ben & Jerry’s. But it wasn’t until the last couple of decades that consumers began to expect more.With the growing popularity of the internet and easy access to global news, corporate dealings became more transparent. Consumers couldn’t help noticing the media spotlight on the existential issues that we face today — climate change, contamination and the depletion of our natural resources, as well as the exploitation of our world communities.Increasingly, customers want to deal with companies that are responsible and ethical. At the same time, more business leaders understand that they have a vital role to play in actively participating in global solutions. International powerhouses such as Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Walt Disney made CSR an essential part of their business processes. Both large and small businesses are bolstering their CSR initiatives. In the process, they are attracting the best talent, engendering customer loyalty, and improving the communities that they serve.

What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is the integration of societal and environmental concerns into the strategy and operations of a business. It consists of initiatives that are founded on the principle that companies should play a positive role in the community and be accountable for the impacts they have on society as a whole. The term was coined in the 1950s by economist Howard Bowen, but elements of it have existed since the 1800s. Although there is no specific law that mandates social responsibility per se, most company leaders have long recognized that when they act in the best interest of society, benefits accrue to them.

Benefit of CSR

In many corporations, CSR matches existing cultural values and aligns with the ethics and morality of the leaders. That’s reason enough to have a CSR program and, in any case, answers the question: “What is the purpose of corporate social responsibility?” However, even though businesses may not expect that there will be a strategic advantage or even many benefits to the CSR program, the rewards are plentiful.CSR programs consistently return results. For example, they:

These benefits are backed by research. Further, customers are four to six times more likely to buy from and trust a company with a strong sense of purpose. And 87% of those surveyed report that they would purchase products and services from companies that advocate for the causes they believe in.

The CSR pyramid

The CSR pyramid is a framework that represents the role of business in society and how businesses can take social responsibility. It was created by Archie Carroll, professor emeritus at the Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, in 1991. The hierarchy of the pyramid appears to place economic consideration before all else. In actual practice, if a business cannot be profitable while following the legal and ethical norms of a society, it should not exist. Like all frameworks, it has its limitations. Yet, despite criticisms that it may misrepresent the relative business priorities and place too strong an emphasis on profit-first, it still provides a useful way to think about how social responsibility works.In any corporation, there will always be tension between what is right and what is profitable. At the end of the day, a viable business must make money. Savvy leaders understand that they must be both ethical and legal. The others become Enron. Let’s consider each of the levels:PhilanthropicThe responsibility to be a good corporate citizen, to serve mankind and to look out for the poor and the underprivileged.EthicalThe responsibility to do what is right and fair, do no harm, follow fair labor practices, uphold nondiscriminatory actions and provide equal pay.LegalThe responsibility to obey the law, society’s codification of right and wrong.EconomicThe responsibility to make a profit and to meet its core responsibility to shareholders.Each of these components works together to create a sustainable operating model.

How Does CSR Work?

There’s no one right way to do CSR. Programs can take many forms. Following are some of the most popular:

  • General donations: Corporations give money to their favorite nonprofits with no expectations in return.
  • In-kind giving: Rather than money, corporations donate products, services, equipment or use of their facilities, for example.
  • Scholarship and grants: Companies provide need-based or merit-based money for education, often targeting specific fields where they have an interest.
  • Sponsorships: Companies pay money or donate products, services and even their employees, to be associated with an event, a team, a project or just the nonprofit itself.
  • Disaster relief donations: When disaster strikes, relief efforts provide we assistance to communities and individuals who need food, shelter, clothing and other essentials.
  • Employee volunteer programs: These workplace-based initiatives support and encourage employees to participate in managed community volunteer efforts.
  • Matching gifts: Corporations set up an employee benefit that provides a matching donation to nonprofit organizations.
  • Volunteer grants: Also known as a dollars for doers programs, corporations provide grant money to nonprofits based on the number of hours employees spend volunteering there.
  • Pro bono work: Companies provide free services, typically professional work, to those in need.

Best Practices for a CSR Program

CSR is self-regulating. As such, there are no rules of compliance that you must follow. But there are certain things a company can do to ensure that the program gets a good start and that it exercises the discipline required to meet its business objectives.

  • Put together a vision of where you want to be based on Carroll’s pyramid. What is the right balance between profitability and service to the community?
  • Audit current activities. What are you doing now that could be considered part of your CSR program?
  • Develop a business code of ethics. Establish guiding principles that provide direction in terms of daily operations and how you treat employees, customers, the environment and competitors.
  • Adopt a workplace health and safety program. Ensure that you are following government regulations that are aimed at providing a safe work environment, avoiding the transmission of disease and preventing accidents.
  • Pledge to protect the environment. Start by implementing the three Rs of waste management in your workplace: reduce, reuse and recycle. Consider ways to minimize your carbon footprint, e.g., smart lighting and eliminating unnecessary travel.
  • Get strategic about nonprofits. Donate to causes that make sense given your business model and your values.
  • Mandate supply chain CSR. Communicate your values and expectations to your suppliers. Treat your suppliers equitably.

CSR Made Easy

One way to ensure that your CSR program runs smoothly is to find the right partners. Technology can help you effortlessly monitor, manage and measure the results of your program. Groundswell is the best option when you are looking to make charitable giving an employee benefit. It allows you to create a personal foundation for each employee and put the control in their capable hands. If you’d like more information about Groundswell, contact us.

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Unlocking Philanthropy: A Ready-to-Use Corporate Giving Policy for Modern Businesses

Sample Corporate Giving Policy You Can Use Today

In today’s socially conscious environment, more companies than ever are recognizing the value of corporate philanthropy. Not only can a robust giving policy boost a brand’s image and reputation, but it can also play a pivotal role in community development and global betterment. If your company is considering the establishment of a formal corporate giving policy or refining its existing strategy, this sample policy might be the perfect starting point for you.

Download Sample Policy

Pillars of a Strong Corporate Giving Policy

Corporate giving programs range from employer donation matching programs to full blown corporate social responsibility programs with grantmaking and volunteerism.  Many companies find somewhere in the middle that aligns with their size, budget, geographic presence and most importantly company values and commitment to diversity and inclusion. But what truly makes a corporate giving policy stand out? Let’s delve into the key features, from donation matching to the strategic use of platforms like Groundswell.

1. Donation Matching: Doubling the Impact

One of the most effective tools in a giving policy is donation matching. This is where companies match employee donations to eligible non-profits, effectively doubling the contribution. Such programs not only amplify the impact but also motivate employees to participate, knowing their chosen cause will receive twice the support.

2. Charitable Stipends: Encouraging Employee Choice

Charitable stipends are allowances given to employees to donate to a non-profit of their choice. This not only encourages a culture of giving but also empowers employees to support causes they’re passionate about. The stipends can be a fixed amount annually or can vary based on the employee’s role or tenure.

3. Dollars for Doers: Volunteering Translated to Contributions

“Dollars for Doers” programs convert volunteer hours into monetary donations. When employees volunteer their time for a cause, the company makes a donation equivalent to the hours spent. This fosters a culture of hands-on involvement and ensures that both time and money are being donated to valuable initiatives.

4. Corporate Grants: Sowing Seeds for Bigger Change

Beyond individual employee contributions, companies can set aside a dedicated fund for corporate grants. These grants can be given to non-profits, research initiatives, or community projects that align with the company’s CSR objectives. Such grants can lead to substantial, long-term changes and foster strong partnerships with community leaders and organizations.

Why Choose Groundswell for Your Giving Initiatives?

Incorporating these elements into a giving policy requires streamlined management, transparency, and ease of execution. This is where platforms like Groundswell come into the picture.

Groundswell offers an efficient and affordable solution for companies aiming to elevate their philanthropic endeavors. Here’s why it’s the ideal choice:

  • User-Friendly Interface: Groundswell’s platform is designed for both companies and employees, ensuring smooth navigation and straightforward donation processes.
  • Versatility: Whether it’s donation matching, handling charitable stipends, or managing corporate grants, Groundswell offers solutions tailored to each company’s unique needs.
  • Cost-Effective: Groundswell provides a comprehensive suite of tools at competitive prices, ensuring that more of your money goes towards the cause rather than platform fees.
  • Transparency: Track donations, monitor employee involvement, and generate detailed reports to measure the impact—all in one place.

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An effective corporate giving policy is a blend of structure, employee engagement, and impactful contributions. By incorporating elements like donation matching, charitable stipends, “Dollars for Doers,” and corporate grants, businesses can create a ripple effect of positive change. And with platforms like Groundswell, executing these initiatives becomes not just feasible but also highly efficient and cost-effective.

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5 Tips to Boost Engagement & Impact on Giving Tuesday

Leverage GivingTuesday to boost generosity

Every November, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as GivingTuesday, which often serves as the unofficial start of end-of-year giving campaigns. This comes on the heels of holiday shopping deals on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It is a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring millions to lean into the end-of-year holiday spirit with generosity and compassion. For many charities, GivingTuesday has become their biggest day for donations – and can help resource their ability to have an even greater impact in the year ahead.

For companies, GivingTuesday and the end-of-year giving season offers an opportunity to double down on their commitment to social responsibility, strengthen relationships with employees, and boost their impact in the community and broader world.

At Groundswell, we partner with companies all across the country to design and launch GivingTuesday campaigns – leveraging our easy-to-use platform that makes it easy for employees to participate and send donations to the causes and charities that they care most about. Below are some best practices to boost engagement and inspire generosity during the giving season.

1. Make Giving Easy:

A lot of giving platforms out there make it incredibly hard to donate. Some don’t have all 1.5 million IRS-approved charities listed. Others require employees to navigate through a web of intranet or sharepoint sites to find the giving program landing page. And others require that HR is notified of any donations an employee wants to make. At Groundswell – we are committed to removing all of the friction, and ensuring that employees can find charities easily, through a platform that is accessible from the palm of their hand, so they can give whenever they want to.

2. Launch a GivingTuesday Match Campaign:

Through Groundswell you can customize and launch a special GivingTuesday match campaign in a matter of minutes. Simply pick the nonprofits to include in the special campaign, select the start and end-date for the campaign, and then determine the match – 2x, 3x – along with any overall budget limits, then you’re done!

3. Boost engagement by involving ERGs:

Share nonprofit recommendations from Employee Resource Groups to provide inspiration around causes and nonprofits that matter to your employees. You can feature these nonprofits on dedicated ERG Corporate Spotlights and Campaigns that will be visible to all employees on their Groundswell dashboard.

4. Surprise (and Delight) Employees With A Gift to Give:

Consider sending a surprise “gift to give” to reward those already participating in your giving program (and to incentivize others to enroll). These gifts might be used to further maximize impact through the existing campaign, or to donate to other nonprofits your employees care about. Groundswell’s custom gift feature allows companies to easily schedule and send gifts with little to no administrative burden.

5. Level up with Volunteer Matching:

Groundswell’s Volunteer Matching program – sometimes known as Dollars for Doers – recognizes that some employees may not have funds to contribute, but have time – and rewards them in the same way. It’s an inclusive approach that invites everyone to participate in GivingTuesday, even those who may not be able to donate their own funds.

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12 Employee Benefits Survey Questions Modern Companies Should Ask

In today's business environment, having the right and highest performing talent is more critical than ever. With benefits packages playing a vital role in these decisions, how can companies truly gauge their effectiveness? By initiating regular employee benefits surveys.

Scroll down for a free survey template below.

Let's dive in to the importance of asking the following questions.

Is our workforce satisfied with the current employee benefits package?

Gaining insights from "how satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?" can offer companies a quick pulse on the effectiveness of their benefits. A dip in satisfaction might signal a need for re-evaluation, especially if you're looking to maximize your budget.

How comprehensive are the employee benefits we offer?

Do employees feel that the organization covers a wide range of their needs? Asking, "do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?" can shed light on any potential gaps in coverage.

Are we showing true commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion through our benefits?

Are the company's efforts in promoting DE&I resonating? This can be gauged by asking if the benefits genuinely support diversity and inclusion. If they aren't, here's an opportunity to collect ideas directly from your employees.

Read more about how to make sure your giving program is equitable and inclusive.

Do our benefits reflect our company culture and values?

The question, "do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?" will highlight any potential discrepancies in practicing what you're preaching.

Did you know? Two-thirds of employees say it’s important for a company to align to their values.

Are we catering to the needs of a remote or multi-location workforce?

With remote work on the rise, is the company adapting its benefits accordingly? It's essential to find out if employees feel supported, regardless of their work setting.

Would employees recommend the company based on our benefits?

This is an easy one to skip, but it's a great question to ask. See how influential your benefits package is for employee referrals. Determining if employees would advocate for the company based on its benefits can be a key metric for recruitment.

How do specific benefit categories fare?

By querying satisfaction levels across various benefits – physical health, social impact, mental health, financial health, and fringe benefits – can companies discern which areas are thriving and which need enhancement?

What additional benefits do employees desire?

Is there a particular benefit that could make a difference in employee satisfaction and retention? Discovering this can be as straightforward as asking, "if you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?"

If your workforce desires a more meaningful benefit, see why decentralizing your corporate philanthropy strategy can achieve greater impact at scale.

How often should I send an employee survey about our benefits?

While every business has their own set of unique needs, conducing a quarterly employee survey at minimum can help you get a pulse check.

There will be some natural and unplanned peaks in valleys throughout the year that can drastically affect employee morale and company culture. By proactively seeking feedback through surveys, companies can foster a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring they remain at the forefront of employee satisfaction.

What are some affordable benefit options we can provide employees?

Corporate matching or giving programs can be a low-cost addition to your benefit offering that supports your employees’ unique passions and perspectives through charitable giving and boosts your company’s commitment to social impact.  Groundswell offers a comprehensive solution with a simple implementation and nearly zero administration burden.

[Free Template] Employee Benefits Survey Questions

  1. How satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?
  2. Do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?
  3. Do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?
  4. Do you feel our benefits package supports our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion?
  5. Do you feel our benefits package supports our remote or multi-location workforce?
  6. How likely are you to recommend applying based on our benefits package?
  7. How satisfied are you with our physical health benefits (i.e. health care, sick leave, etc)?
  8. How satisfied are you with our social impact benefits (i.e. corporate matching, volunteering, etc)?
  9. How satisfied are you with our mental health benefits (i.e. vacation time, EAP, etc)?
  10. How satisfied are you with our financial health benefits? (i.e. retirement, student loan assistance, etc)
  11. How satisfied are you with our fringe benefits and perks? (i.e. fitness subsidies, stipends, etc)
  12. If you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?
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