Social Responsibility: The New Competitive Advantage by Ankita Poddar

There was a time when Maslow’s hierarchy dictated how organization structured their benefits. However, times have changed and so has the playing field. Most basic needs determined by Maslow are now offered by organizations across the board and have ceased to lend competitive advantage. In a generation where benefits like working from home, free food and sleep pods are considered necessities, organizations have begun to realize that there lies a space unexplored; that when all basics are covered, employees are drawn to organizations that do good. In today’s world, organizations need to contribute to the society and do more than just government mandated corporate social responsibility.

In 2018, 650 employees at Salesforce sent a letter to the CEO asking to cancel its contract with Customs and Border Protection after Trump’s family separation policy created a national outcry. In the two years employees from Microsoft, Deloitte, McKinsey have all protested against the moves of their organization at one point or the other when they believed it defied the greater good. Be it political, environmental or related to human rights, employees have begun to expect much more from organizations that just a paycheck and a good work-life. In early 2018, Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, wrote in his annual letter, ‘‘Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.’’

Organizations have realized that forging a social purpose made both long-term business sense and created a strong employer brand. Google publically calls out their progress towards creating a sustainable future. Patagonia has an entire section of their website dedicated to making the world a better place. Amazon is working to expand its packaging-free shipment to more cities around the world. Microsoft claims to have achieved 100% carbon neutrality every year since 2012. These are just few of the many attempts organizations around the world are making in order to stay competitive.

While each employee values social responsibility differently, there does lie an undercurrent of wanting to work for an organization that gives back to the society. The part that goes awry here is that sometimes employees disassociate themselves from the responsibility. The organization becomes an entity outside of themselves and that entity is held responsible. Employees tend to forget that they are equally equipped to make a change. It is not the responsibility of the top management alone. The top management needs to act as an enabler however; it is as much the responsibility of the employee to spot areas of opportunity and leverage them, as it is of the organization owner. Employees have begun to realize this and are working to make a change. When the change is too large, we have seen movements in the form of protests and petitions.

Yes, free yoga classes, flexible work hours, fancy office spaces still hold great attractiveness, but when two organizations offer similar benefits, the prize usually goes to the one that strives for a clear sense of purpose and can convince a prospective employee that they’d contribute to a greater cause.

As Google says, ‘The path to a cleaner, healthier future begins with the small decisions we make each day. That’s why we’re committed to making smart use of the Earth’s resources, and creating products with the planet in mind. We constantly look for ways to be even more responsible in our use of energy, water, and other natural resources – and empower others to do the same.’

What role are you and your organization going to play?

 

This article is exclusive to The Business Transformation Network.

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Ankita Poddar is HR Business Partner at Amazon

Ankita is an HR professional based out of India. Identified as one of the top emerging young HR leaders in India in 2016, Ankita’s experience as an HR Business Partner gives her the opportunity to work closely with business leaders, innovate and execute on the behalf of customers especially in areas of people analytics, employee engagement, rewards and recognition and performance management.

Ankita blogs about all things HR at https://thehrbpstory.com.

You can follow her on Twitter @ankitapoddar.