Companies in resource-intensive industries have long been sensitive to their impact on the environment. For them, including the environment as a strategic focus area is a given. For everyone else, though, it’s probably not.
You can argue that giving to environmental causes is not strategic for so-called “green” companies—those with lower carbon footprints, such as service companies. We would say that it depends on how you define “strategic.”
A strategic giving and engagement program, by our definition, is one in which the company supports social issues that are aligned with business goals, community needs and employee interests. The words “employee interests” are the key here. Prompted by some interesting data on environmental concerns among employees, we looked at two sets of data to see how well company giving has been aligned with employee interests.
First, company giving. For the past eight years, between 3% and 4% of total giving has been directed to environmental causes, according to CECP’s annual Giving in Numbers report. Even resource-intensive industries only topped out at 16% of total giving to the environment.
Second, employee surveys conducted for clients over the past eight years reveal that employees are much more concerned about the environment as a social issue for themselves personally and as a philanthropic focus for the company than their employers are. Whereas the environment consistently ranks in the top five social issues for employees, the environment ranks near or at the bottom of CECP’s table of program allocations by focus area. In addition, recent CECP reports also showed a decrease in the environment as a priority focus area in a matched set of survey participants.
It seems to us that companies are not responding to employees’ strong interest in the environment. Why not? Perhaps these companies consider environmental volunteer projects adequate responses—CECP’s data don’t capture this.
We believe employees are asking for more than beach clean-ups and garden installations. We believe employees want a real commitment to supporting causes that impact the environment.
The need to incorporate environmental causes into your strategy goes beyond responding to employee interests. Remember the definition of strategic also includes “community needs.” With climate change and the environment on the world stage, the term “community” means more than the places where you do business. When it comes to the environment, it’s the global community that matters.
There is a worldwide call to action. We all need to respond in a meaningful way. Companies need to act—not token actions, not greenwashing, not just planting trees (although planting trees is a good way to address climate change). They need to think about how to satisfy their employees and help save the planet.
Need help with your sustainability strategy and initiatives? Give us a call at 203-325-3154 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.