How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Help Reduce Liability & Five CSR Initiatives You Can Start Today

Posted on: July 27, 2022
In: Labor & Employment

By: Charlotte A. Johnston

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is a form of self-regulation that reflects a business' accountability and commitment to contributing to the well-being of communities and society through various environmental and social measures. What does CSR have to do with employment law? According to Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, everything. The study found that the modern workforce prioritizes culture, diversity, and high impact over financial benefits. An estimated 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zers rely on their personal ethics in determining the type of companies they’d join. Likewise, 70% of respondents in the Porter Novelli Purpose Tracker 2021 said they wouldn’t work for a company without a strong purpose. What’s more, employees who relate to a company’s CSR initiatives are much more likely to stay. Deloitte’s 2020 Global Marketing Trends Report shows that purpose-driven companies retain talent up to 40% more than their competitors, indicating that simple CSR initiatives can decrease turnover, thereby reducing overhead by minimizing training/new hire costs and unemployment claims.

Funding these initiatives might seem like a great way to waste money, but there are more than just warm feelings of employees associated with CSR. Diversity initiatives, environmental policies, and even just taking a stance on social issues can decrease the amount of discrimination lawsuits and whistleblower actions faced by your company. Moreover, these simple, low-cost changes may increase market share by making your company a destination for those overlooked by traditional companies. CSR initiatives pull double duty as marketing initiatives that can get consumers with disabilities or from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to take notice, while setting you apart overall. According to a 2015 survey by Nielsen, more than 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service if the business prioritizes sustainability. Based on market trends, it would appear CSR is here to stay.

Rather than breaking the bank, here are five low-cost options to get started:

1. Revamp your handbook to add EEO policies

Handbooks are the first thing any employee or outside investigator sees about your company. So, let’s say that a discrimination action is filed. You proceed with the administrative action, and they notice how your handbook includes anti-discrimination literature and statements about how your company prioritizes inclusion. The investigator looks at this and immediately thinks there may be some legitimate explanation other than discrimination. This simple step earns you the benefit of the doubt, and, at the very least, gives your defense a better base to work with.

2. Disability/accessibility pages on website

One of the easiest ways to inject a bit of CSR programming with low cost is a page addressing accessibility features of your business. This not only helps provide evidence against disability discrimination claims, but it also is an easy way to reach disabled consumers. For those with a visual disability, have a guided audio tour of your website. For those in the service industry, offer ASL options for meetings. For those with mobility concerns, offer meetings over Zoom or flexible pickup options. Small offerings such as these, with key words, show up in search engines. For example, if someone searches “accessible lawyer,” the law firms with a page on accessibility show up first.

3. Internal grievance processes

Another easy initiative to implement is an internal grievance process. The reasons for this are many, but here are a few. First, employees who feel like they have a voice are less likely to make a gut decision to file a complaint externally. Many employee complaints can be resolved this way, and it helps the company keep track of the issues on employees’ minds. Second, if/when the EEOC or other agency investigators note an internal grievance process, it shows that the company cares about employees and takes complaints seriously. Third, if an employee fails to file an internal grievance or complaint but tries to seek an external remedy, it lends credence to the idea that there was no actual issue and the person is instead after a payday or making up their allegations. Overall, these processes do not have to be expensive or particularly sophisticated. Even just having a form for people to report alleged misconduct or problematic events can solve numerous problems before they begin.

4. Standardized hiring questionnaires

Interviewing candidates is never easy, especially in sectors heavily affected by The Great Resignation. Not only can it be tricky to get information that is needed about potential new hires, but it can also open a company up to liability based on problematic questions. Uniform questions help get the information you need while reducing the risk of liability. Standardized hiring questionnaires are also a great measure to reduce implicit bias and can be added to the company resumé as part of a diversity initiative.

5. Create publicity around preexisting initiatives

Remember when the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was all the rage? The same applies to the policies you already have in place! Maybe you have a recycling program that is part of your building. Perhaps you give employees vouchers for public transit. Maybe you’ve always recognized Black History Month and/or other heritage months in some way. Regardless of what type of policy, publicizing initiatives you already have in place, whether through ads, your website, or email alerts to your employees and customers/clients can go a long way. It can be something as simple as asking people bring in their own mug for coffee in the morning instead of using paper cups. Though this may have been a cost-saving measure originally, it suddenly is a great platform for your commitment to sustainability. Rather than having to try and do all new things, rebranding policies your company already has can move you into the CSR space with little cost and effort. 

Though CSR can seem like something that is too much time and money, chances are you’re already doing something that can fit into this realm. And if all else fails, experienced counsel, like the labor & employment attorneys at Lewis Brisbois, can help you with developing new measures tailor-made for your company.

For more information, contact the author of this post or visit our Labor & Employment Practice page to find an attorney in your area. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive email alerts when new posts go up.

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