By Jacqueline Libster (New York)

Perhaps you are an evolved employer who has implemented, or is considering implementing, socially responsible programs. You must be wondering if your employees really care about these efforts. The truth is, they do. And so do clients, stockholders, the community and the next generation workforce.

Social responsibility programs can increase employee loyalty and reduce attrition rates. Employees will better identify with an employer whose values and integrity match their own and will develop a sense of importance and well being about their work and their workplace that can extend beyond the job they are asked to do. CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs should encompass a way of life that blends seamlessly between the workplace and home.

A holistic approach to improving job satisfaction is important when adopting and maintaining CSR efforts. Encouraging and supporting employees to align their personal values with volunteer or charitable efforts that are important to them individually will allow them to psychologically align to the overall values of your organization, while creating branding and marketing value.

Your company’s environmentally friendly practices also have the added benefit of becoming an ingrained lifestyle choice for employees. This green-halo effect can be contagious. Employees who feel empowered at work through these practices might start (or get more serious about) recycling at home or engaging their families and friends in similar volunteer programs.

No doubt the next generation of business leaders have a heightened awareness of business ethics and environmental issues. For members of Generation Y, a real commitment to environmental and social causes are simply a way of life and should not be underestimated as a great retention tool and a powerful hiring tool. This group would be personally unfulfilled and professionally unengaged without employer leadership on CSR issues. While it used to be more common to expect employees to pursue their interests and causes outside the office, the importance of these values is too entwined with who Gen Y’ers are as people. The need to align their values with their employer is crucial to them feeling good about their future with a company.

Sustainable business practices are also proven to be economical. While the economics of scale matters, even a small company can benefit. Saving money and saving the planet are no longer incompatible. Small steps, when reproduced, can mean substantial savings. There is a reason every credit card company and utility provider incentivizes “paperless” billing – not only does the consumer feel good about creating less paper waste, but the company saves money on paper and printing and delivery costs. From a business prospective, many environmental and sustainability efforts are also good for the bottom line.

Evolved Employers need to lead by example. Here are 9 ways you can build CSR efforts at your company.

  1. Choose the causes that make sense for your business field and for your community to make the most of the time and energy of your employees.
  2. Develop a strategic CSR plan that aligns your goals and values with those of your employees.
  3. Engage employees by letting them make choices about which projects they want to contribute to.
  4. Be innovative in finding new ways to make a difference and differentiate your company from the competition.
  5. Partner with your employees to increase your CSR efforts and increase loyalty and retention.
  6. Market your efforts in the hiring process to attract and recruit the best new talent.
  7. Value the energy and enthusiasm of younger workers who have a more innate grasp of emerging issues.
  8. Integrate CSR to the highest levels of decision-making so that it becomes a regular function of normal operating procedures.
  9. Commit to CSR polices even in a tough economic climate because that is when the policies become even more beneficial and necessary.

The bottom line is, employees will only care about CSR efforts when employers take the lead. The partnership that can be created between motivated, engaged, enthusiastic and caring employees and employers should be every company’s most sustainable initiative.