How HR Departments are Embracing Corporate Social Responsibility During the Pandemic

By Sarah Anderson | December 22, 2020 | , | Mission Driven Companies, Philanthropy Cloud, Workforce Development

We’ve always seen the impact of positive employee engagement correlated with strong company performance. We’ve also witnessed a growing role for Human Resource (HR) departments in embracing corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In early 2020, we set out to do this research with Valoir, an independent research firm, to find out whether this trend was picking up momentum. Then, of course, COVID-19 hit, followed by waves of social and racial unrest that changed the trajectory of the year — and this study. The research was finalized in October 2020, providing unique insight into the accelerated evolution of HR roles in driving DEI and social impact — often side by side.

To better understand the challenges facing HR professionals in the current environment, Valoir partnered with HR Executive Magazine to survey 128 HR leaders from a variety of industries and company sizes about their priorities, challenges, and budgets. Respondents were asked about CSR, DEI, and employee giving to see how their strategies and budgets for those areas had shifted since the beginning of 2020.

The research clearly shows the increasing challenges HR leaders face especially with employee health, productivity, and social responsibility. While most HR departments (60%) reported no increase in budget since the beginning of 2020, demands for CSR and DEI efforts have compounded. In fact 88% of HR departments support or lead CSR activities in their companies, which is much higher than our initial expectations.

Download the Report

Folder focused on a tab with the acronym CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility.

Technology Helps HR Overcome Challenges in Driving CSR and DEI

HR professionals have been forging a new path forward through this tumultuous year. This report discusses their approaches in promoting employee-led engagement in DEI and CSR. It turns out that DEI as a grassroots effort can often have a stronger, more lasting effect on a company culture when orchestrated effectively. Positive results, especially during the pandemic, have been achieved when employees are empowered to lead their initiatives. Employee resource groups (ERGs) prove to be an effective way to blend inclusiveness as part of corporate social responsibility by creating a culture of social impact that’s centered on giving and volunteering around causes most relevant to them.  

In addition, this report includes interviews of Salesforce.org Philanthropy Cloud customers across industries and sizes. Many are finding new ways to use the platform to streamline HR’s efforts across CSR and DEI, and scale them across their employee base by leveraging ERGs while continuing to operate in a mode that is almost entirely virtual. 

Despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, technology in general — specifically Philanthropy Cloud — has played a key role in furthering the grassroots culture of social impact by encouraging virtual collaboration around community giving and volunteering. Employees found creative ways to do typically office-based activities — such as change collection and team-based competitions  — at home and then transform them into virtual initiatives by charging what they might have given in cash to a credit card online. 

Furthermore, many companies with employees scattered among multiple office locations or employees who were remote even before the pandemic were able to unite all employees in ways not previously done before. The pandemic forced communications to become 100% digital and with Philanthropy Cloud, there was a central destination that brought fully remote employees into the fold — many for the first time.

Business people talking while wearing masks in the office

Demands for CSR and DEI efforts have compounded, with 88% of HR departments supporting or leading CSR activities in their companies.

Philanthropy Cloud’s ability to capture and analyze data has proven extremely helpful for customers. HR and CSR leaders appreciate the low-pressure approach of Philanthropy Cloud, which offers a network of nonprofits for employees to explore on their own. This is a welcome reprieve from the top-down leadership-driven philanthropic projects. 

See how HR leaders are meeting the increasing needs of their communities and employees, and download the full report.


This blog post is the third of a series on corporate purpose. Explore the other entries:


About the Author

Sarah Anderson, director of product marketing for Salesforce.org Philanthropy Cloud

Sarah Anderson is a director of product marketing for Salesforce.org Philanthropy Cloud. After spending 12 years as an editor for consumer-facing technology magazines, she turned her attention to marketing SaaS-based B2B enterprise solutions.