How CSR can boost the UK economy by £17bn+ a year

Improving engagement is one of the answers to Britain's absenteeism problem. And that's where CSR comes in.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
When we wrote earlier this week about Britain's £32bn-a-year absence problem, we suggested the best approach would involve a mixture of carrot and stick. Now some of you seemed to think the stick bit was rather more influential. But it's undoubtedly true that there is a carrot angle too: for instance, studies have suggested that staff who consider themselves engaged at work tend to take fewer days off - as well as being more productive and more loyal. And according to a new survey by software specialist LeapCR, one of the best ways for employers to boost engagement is to take CSR more seriously - and encourage their staff to do the same...

LeapCR asked over 1,000 staff in the UK how they felt about CSR. And it turns out they're extremely pro. Three-quarters said they want their employer 'to balance commercial success with good CSR strategies, including supporting charities'. Nearly two-thirds said that giving staff paid time off to do charitable work would boost engagement (Generation Y staff were particularly positive). And almost half said they were more likely to stay with an employer that encouraged its staff to donate time or money to charity during working hours.

Now it might seem counter-intuitive that encouraging your staff not to work during working hours will boost productivity. But the theory is that because they’ll be more engaged as a result of this volunteering, they'll work harder once they're back at the desk - and they'll take fewer days off. So if this effect was replicated across the board, it would be excellent news for the economy: LeapCR points out that a mere 1% increase in service sector productivity would boost GDP by about £17bn a year. And yet some businesses don't seem to have woken up to the potential of CSR: 57% of staff think their employer could be doing more.

It may be that this is just a communication problem. Only 58% of employees knew whether their employer even had a CSR commitment - which rather suggests some companies are not doing a very good job of advertising what they're up to. So better communication to staff about current activities - and just as importantly, getting them involved - could result in an easy engagement win.

That £17bn figure might sound a bit fanciful. But the survey makes a valid point, which is that UK staff - particularly the younger ones - really care about their employer's commitment to CSR. So taking a more active role is good for companies, good for charities, and possibly even good for the economy as a whole. What's not to like?

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