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Employee Resource Groups are Critical to Business Success

Benevity, the leading global provider of social impact software, has released its annual State of Corporate Purpose report, uncovering the top corporate social responsibility (CSR), diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) trends influencing business’ corporate social impact strategies. 

Based on data and insights from Benevity’s community of nearly 1,000 leading companies, and a proprietary survey of more than 400 CSR leaders, the 2024 report from Benevity Impact Labs reveals that after years of reacting and responding to crises and stakeholder expectations, companies are increasingly tying their CSR strategies back to their core values and sharpening their focus on generating positive return on investment for their businesses and communities.  

“Between widespread polarization and rapid technological developments, there’s no shortage of division and uncertainty right now,” says Sona Khosla, chief impact officer at Benevity. “To weather this sea of change, executives will be revisiting their corporate strategies and embracing an enterprise-wide ‘impact mindset’ to embed positive social and environmental impact across their culture, brand, and operations. This will enable companies to not only meet the moment and the rising expectations that business should have a positive impact on the world, but also build resilience into their company, culture, and community for the long-term.”  

Key findings from the report are below.  

  • Employee resource groups (ERGs) are now business critical. ERGs have evolved beyond their DEI origins and are taking on an integral role in companies today. Approximately 81% of companies saying ERGs are being consulted more often by HR, communications, and marketing, where they bring perspectives on the needs of diverse communities, add authenticity to crisis responses, and influencing social impact strategy, funding, and decision-making. By helping companies scale the power of grassroots networks to drive inclusive workplaces, they are adding tangible value to the business. Four out of five companies say that ERGs are increasing in significance, and more than half are increasing their ERG budgets.  
  • Volunteer programs propel forward. Volunteering has gained momentum as a critical tool to build culture and employee engagement in the now-normal hybrid work world. Approximately 59% of volunteers were new in the past year—a direct result of companies investing in volunteering to build (or rebuild) their culture. The data shows, however, that 55% of companies are evolving their volunteer programs further, investing in ways to forge stronger employee connections and drive deeper social impact through skills-based volunteering and nonprofit board service programs.  
  • Companies cautiously use their voices. Business leaders are becoming more experienced in learning when and how to activate on potentially divisive social issues in a way that is resonant, impactful, and aligned with their corporate goals and values. In fact, 80% of impact leaders say they must be more cautious about which issues they support vocally—up 9% from 2023—while 91% of impact leaders say corporations should continue to be courageous and willing to take a stand—up just 3% year-over-year. 
  • Organizations are harnessing AI for good. Following a year of explosive growth in the adoption of AI, companies are now striving to harness AI’s power in ways that address social issues while mitigating a potential divide. While 61% of companies are concerned about the potential impacts of AI, 87% are optimistic about what AI can do for philanthropy. Increasingly, companies are bringing a human-centered approach to AI to ensure their practices are ethical and responsible, and that access and opportunity for all is prioritized. 
  • Outcomes-driven philanthropy is advancing. Approximately 89% of leaders surveyed are being asked to show how the impact generated by their CSR initiatives is being measured, proving the need to further harness data to demonstrate outcomes and prove positive return on investment. The greatest increase in CSR budgets this year will be in data, measurement and reporting. Companies that have proof that their social investments are driving both business value and social outcomes will be the ones that sustain budgets and leadership in the long run. 
  • ESG continues to evolve. In the lead-up to 2030 and the net-zero targets set by many businesses, companies are increasing environmental investments through their philanthropic programs. At the same time, the distinction between the environmental and the social of ESG continues to fade. All indications point to growing regulatory, shareholder, and stakeholder pressures that will have companies measuring and managing the totality of their environmental and social initiatives. 

“The early 2020s were marked by companies highly focused on responding to crises, which shifted budgets and approaches to granting,” says Khosla. “While businesses are now taking a more strategic and forward-thinking approach—tying their strategies back to their core corporate values—it’s inspiring to see so many businesses embedding a crisis and DEI lens into the full range of their granting programs, resulting in greater equity and resiliency over time.”  

Tags: Corporate Social Responsibility, DEI, ERG

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