By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently Forbes Insights released the results of its latest survey on corporate social responsibility. According to the report, “Corporate Philanthropy – The New Paradigm: Volunteerism. Competence. Results.” companies are relying to corporate responsibility more and more to position themselves for success in new markets and to build the competencies of high performing employees.

For example, the report details MasterCard’s recent partnership with the Grameen Foundation in Colombia, which involved an 8-month leadership program for a select group of talented employees.

Patricia Devereux, group head of Corporate Philanthropy & Citizenship at MasterCard Worldwide, explained, “Corporate social responsibility isn’t just about writing checks anymore; it’s making important ties with what is going on in your community.”

She continued, “The commitment from senior management is strong, our employees worldwide are increasing their volunteer hours, and all of us can see firsthand the impact we are having in our communities.”

Devereaux also discussed another trend revealed in the report – tracking progress and making changes based on that data to achieve results. “Those are long-term metrics, of course, but that’s what we are interested in – long-term, sustainable improvements,” she said.

Survey Findings

The report is based on interviews with 311 executives at large companies – two thirds of whom worked for companies bringing in $5 billion or more annually. According to Forbes, “More than half of the respondents (54%) had C-level titles or were board members. Another 31% had titles of director or above. In terms of function, 37% were involved in corporate management, 29% were in finance, 14% were in HR or talent management, and 14% were involved in community relations or philanthropy.”

About half were located in the Americas, a third in Asia-Pacific, and the rest were in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

About half of the respondents said that their company’s CSR commitments had increased over the past year, which Forbes noted is interesting given the global financial situation.

The report noted that volunteering is increasingly seen as a way to train employees and develop ties to underserved or new markets, and most companies plan to increase volunteer programs. It explains:

“Companies also anticipate that volunteer hours will increase over the next year, highlighting the crucial part manpower plays in CSR. In fact, 72% say that they primarily make donations to causes that will allow their employees to volunteer. In general, companies are finding creative ways to enable this, from allowing employees to donate their work time to causes, to paying for travel, to sponsoring a corporate service corp.”

Companies are tying CSR donations to causes that enable their employees to participate as well. This grassroots involvement may be seen as a way to improve employee engagement within the corporation and their community.

Employee Engagement

In fact, employee motivation was the top reason given for corporate responsibility, according to Forbes, with 64% of respondents naming this as a goal of philanthropy and community involvement.

Additionally, companies are using corporate responsibility initiatives to attract Gen Y employees. “While Gen Y’ers still compose a minority of corporate employees, as the first wave of Baby Boomers retires, competition for young Gen Y talent to be groomed for corporate middle management is skyrocketing,” the report notes.

It continues:

“A study by AMP Agency, a brand management firm, found that 61% of Gen Y’ers feel person- ally responsible for making a difference in the world, and over half of them say that they wouldn’t work for an irresponsible corporation. Companies are responding to that ethos. Case in point: 72% of respondents say volunteerism and philanthropy are critical for recruiting younger qualified employees.”

But motivation isn’t the only goal behind corporate responsibility and volunteering efforts. The study continues:

“Companies use CSR not only to motivate their employees, but also to train them and build skill sets. Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents say they want to increase their employees’ skills and leadership through corporate philanthropy. That’s another incentive for companies—47% say learning more about potential markets and opportunities is a motivator for CSR.”

CSR activities are increasingly seen as an opportunity for high potential employees to develop skills and prove themselves, while better understanding new communities’ needs. This type of work serves as a training ground for developing and retaining talent.