Employees provide key to success

Corporate responsibility has become a business imperative.

Corporate responsibility has become a business imperative.

As companies around the world adjust their practices to meet today's societal and environmental demands and expectations from stakeholders, there is one stakeholder group often overlooked – employees.

Corporate responsibility is focused on shared value. And a major part of that sharing should occur internally with a company's employees. No one company can go it alone. Those companies that engage and activate their employees in corporate responsibility efforts will be more successful than those that do not.

One recent example is ConAgra Foods.

The giant consumer packaged goods company recently announced winners of its 2010 Sustainable Development Awards, an awards program that recognizes how employees have integrated sustainability into business practices. The best practices are then shared with the company.

ConAgra awarded best practices across five sustainability categories. The winning projects, including reusing water removed from tomatoes during the manufacturing process to supply boilers, cooling towers, and tanks, saved the company more than $28 million last year. 

Championing employee efforts through a rewards or awards program is a great way for companies to communicate, engage, and activate their efforts toward meeting corporate responsibility goals.

By creating unity through shared values and goals, companies can develop a stronger link between their sustainability focus and their business success and growth. Employees are then inspired to focus on their own responsible actions to make a difference.

However, before engaging and activating employees, companies should build credibility and authenticity in their commitment first. Like all stakeholder groups, employees will join if they feel the company is making a valiant effort to leverage their core competencies and role in society to make a profound impact. 

Companies should build a compelling narrative and continually communicate their efforts to employees. Once this has happened, employees should be asked to join.

Scott Beaudoin is the North America director of CSR and cause marketing and SVP of consumer marketing at MS&L Worldwide.

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