Welcome to the microsite for the newest entry in IBJ’s Business Cares series: Corporate Social Responsibility.
Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is a growing, multi-faceted movement designed to help companies bring their values and business models into alignment for the good of businesses and the communities they serve. To unlock the potential of CSR, we invite you to explore the microsite and learn about CSR in its many iterations.
In this first issue of Business Cares: Corporate Social Responsibility, you’ll find:
- A helpful overview of CSR by Dora Lutz, the founder and CEO of GivingSpring and author of The Aspirational Business.
- An explanation of Conscious Capitalism, a concept that takes CSR to a higher level by prioritizing humanity over profit.
- The story of how CSR makes a huge difference for one local non-profit and the youth it serves.
- An explanation of Environmental, Social, and Governance, or ESG, which is both a governing and investing philosophy that companies need to become familiar with.
- A column from Goelzer Investment Management that debunks the controversy that has cropped up around ESG investing.
- Advice from attorneys at Faegre Drinker about how companies should navigate the intricacies of ESG.
Thanks to the 16 companies and organizations listed below that sponsored the microsite and its print version in the Nov. 18 edition of Indianapolis Business Journal. And thanks to our readers. We hope you’ll support our sponsors and consider how CSR can work to improve your business and our entire state.
Publisher, President & CEO
Corporate Social Responsibility can build your bottom line
By Dora Lutz
I’ve spent more than a decade talking to business leaders about Corporate Social Responsibility. During that time, I’ve seen the conversations shift from corporate volunteering and grant-making to more formalized concepts such as Conscious Capitalism, B-Corps and most recently, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) frameworks.
The idea that businesses should engage with the community to “do good” is not new … and the rapid acceleration of terminology and methods means there’s a way for businesses to engage in social responsibility regardless of size, industry, or overall goal.
Yet the confusion in terminology and approaches creates the perception that Corporate Social Responsibility is “fluffy,” “woke,” or simply a “public relations effort.”
In reality, Corporate Social Responsibility drives the bottom line. Considering the needs of underserved communities drives product innovation and access to new markets. Aligning with the desires of your customers increases brand perception and drives premium pricing.
Engaging toward a social good increases your employees’ sense of meaningful work, which reduces money spent on recruitment and retention. Setting an expectation for appropriate behavior reduces the risk of ethical violations and associated fines. Companies with strong cultures of positive impact even have lower injury rates than those without a strong sense of “good.”
Hoosier hospitality is well aligned with the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility because so many of our business leaders intuitively want to do the right thing for the right reason. However, this strength can also become our weakness—particularly if we’re slow to adopt new language or communicate the good work we do.
But doing this work well can grow our businesses and our business ecosystem in three key ways:
• Talent Attraction. 96% of employees nationally say they expect their employer to work toward a sustainability agenda (including social factors and environmental considerations). Demonstrating how our businesses positively impact our communities can combat brain drain by allowing individuals to engage in personally meaningful work.
• Revenue Streams. 88% of consumers say they will shift their buying behaviors based on a company’s social impact. Even in the B2B space, social impact matters—57% of procurement managers now consider a company’s sustainability effort as one of their top-five decision-making criteria. Failing to incorporate social impact into our existing strategies (or failing to communicate our work) means we risk losing out to competitors on the coasts who see social impact or ESG efforts as non-negotiable.
• Access to Capital. Socially focused investments, particularly ESG-focused investments, are now part of a $27 trillion industry, growing at almost 20% per year. These funds are directed from both institutional investors and venture capital firms and can provide the financial investment that Indiana businesses are ripe to leverage. Data shows that businesses with strong social impact tend to earn a premium in mergers & acquisitions activities.
The rise of social impact/Corporate Social Responsibility/ESG terminology is new to many business leaders but inherent to how many Hoosiers intuitively see the world. Unfortunately, these concepts have recently become unnecessarily politicized. But businesses can be good stewards of the environment, their people and their communities while remaining non-partisan.
For Corporate Social Responsibility to drive impact AND profit, consider these four things:
• Which social impact strategy makes the most sense for your business?
• How are your competitors (and customers) integrating social impact into their businesses?
• Where does this work align with your existing business strategies?
• How will you prove that you are making the impact you desire and hold your organization accountable for this work?
Corporate Social Responsibility creates a meaningful opportunity for Indiana to compete as the place where people live when they want to change the world.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a corporate strategy that can drive our businesses, people and communities forward. You simply need a measurable strategy to bring it to life. •
Lutz is founder and CEO of GivingSpring and author of The Aspirational Business. To learn more, connect with Dora at www.linkedin.com/in/doralutz, or at Giving-Spring.com.
Your Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is a non-profit’s lifeline
By Charles Stringer
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana is a local youth mentoring organization that specializes in one-to-one mentoring. Our program matches adult volunteers with kids in the community based on their location, their interests, and a variety of other compatibility metrics. We have the data to show how impactful having a mentor can be. For example, 81% of kids in our program end the year with good grades, and 89% of kids report high scores in social competence and emotional regulation.
We know that mentorship is valuable—and expensive. Supporting more than 1,000 matches in a calendar year requires a lot of resources. Between the hours that our fulltime staff of Mentoring Relationship Specialists spend working with matches and the costs accrued by planning and hosting activities for matches, we estimate that it costs around $2,000 to support one match for one year.
The money that goes into supporting our matches comes from several sources, but one of the largest is our corporate partners who prioritize corporate social responsibility. Their event sponsorships, matching gifts, corporate donations, etc., give us the resources needed to offer our award-winning services to central Indiana’s young people.
Corporate Social Responsibility matters. That’s why you should consider finding a way to support a local non-profit that aligns with your company’s values.
It will mean so much to the organizations you support. Take our word for it. We held our largest annual fundraiser, “The Main Event,” in September. The gourmet dinner and silent auction at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was made possible by our generous sponsors and was primarily attended by representatives of our corporate partners. The hard work our staff put in to make this a successful event was worth it. We raised more than $350,000, almost all of which came from our corporate partners and their representatives.
With that money we will be able to provide support to around 180 matches for a year. From this one example of corporate social responsibility, 180 volunteers will have access to mentorship coaching and training and 180 kids will have access to mentors for a full year. Because kids in our program have better scores across a wide range of success factors, The Main Event will lift the scores—and fortunes—of 180 kids who might not have had that advantage without the generosity of companies that supported The Main Event.
Event sponsorships and donations are hugely important and make a big impact, but corporate social responsibility goes beyond that. By inviting their teams to attend The Main Event, our corporate partners provided us with the opportunity to connect their employees with our mission. There is a financial cost associated with our program, but we also need volunteers to work directly with kids. At this year’s event, we inducted a group of matches into our “Hall of Fame.” These matches shared their stories and reflected on how being a part of our program impacted their lives for the better. Every person in attendance heard about the impact of mentorship.
Not every company has the budget to donate thousands of dollars to sponsor a huge event, but there are impactful things that every company can do to create a culture of philanthropy and encourage your team to give back. Our largest need is for volunteers. We have more referred youth ready to be matched than ever before, and it is consistently a challenge to find spaces where we can tell others about this need. That’s why it’s so impactful for us when a company invites its employees to attend one of our events or invites us to one of their meetings to get the word out about our program.
Providing Volunteer Time Off is another great way to create a culture of philanthropy at your company. One of the most common concerns that potential volunteers raise is that they don’t think they have enough time. We ask our volunteers for four hours every month. That’s not a huge time commitment, but it’s enough to be a challenge for some people. If you allow an employee to take paid time off to volunteer, they have more time to get involved. You will also receive benefits. Our program offers training on mentorship; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and a variety of other valuable skills. Those skills will transfer to the workplace and can increase your employee’s competency in those areas.
Regardless of what your company looks like, there is room for you to create a culture of philanthropy by owning your Corporate Social Responsibility. •
Stringer is volunteer outreach engagement coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana.
ESG investing is as American as apple pie
By Chris W. Cotterill
As staggering inflation, rapidly rising interest rates, and a bearish stock market dominate headlines and discussions in homes across America, another financial topic continues to make headlines: Environmental, Social, and Governance—better known as ESG—investing.
ESG investing considers environmental, social, and corporate governance criteria in the investment portfolio construction process. When an investor selects companies that are actively protecting the environment or making a difference on societal issues, that’s ESG investing. When an investor considers a company’s decision-making process and how it shares that information, that is an example of the governance side of ESG.
Sounds very positive. But search the news for ESG and you will see alarming headlines like “Is ESG illegal?” Aggressive challenges to ESG, Impact Investing, and other types of principled investing are earning headlines, causing ESG to become another polarized issue with nuance and common ground lost.
That’s unfortunate because investing in something you believe in is as American as apple pie. Investment fuels the private sector’s R&D and the hard work that drives the economy, improving standards of living by sustaining and creating jobs. The private sector has an immensely positive impact on our society, and this is especially true of socially responsible corporations. If an investor wants to focus on companies supporting land conservation, renewable energy, law enforcement, or diversity, equity, and inclusion, that’s not just principled investing, that’s freedom in a pluralistic society.
We launched our proprietary ESG strategy at Goelzer Investment Management six years ago. Our in-house investment team identifies companies with strong fundamentals and positive or improving ESG features with the highest potential to provide our clients with positive returns. Being manufacturers of our own strategies enhances our ability to provide advice on a wide array of investment options, including external investment options, so that clients have comprehensive solutions designed to meet their goals.
More fundamentally, a client’s desire to engage in principled investing aligns with our firm’s core purpose: to enrich the lives of our clients, colleagues, and community. Enrichment has an obvious financial aspect, yet enrichment is about the broader, deeper sense of growth through positive engagement—by considering different viewpoints and striving for collective impact. We believe that as advisors to successful individuals, families, and institutions, we have a corporate social responsibility to be engaged on issues where we can make a difference.
That’s why we provide paid time off to all team members to serve on nonprofit boards and engage in community service. That’s why we have had 100% participation in our annual United Way Campaign since 2014. We have donated more than $1 million to non-profits and one million meals to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. We are committed to initiatives that lead our industry to reflect the beautiful diversity of our country. And we are passionate about working on these and other issues.
Our core purpose reinforces the fiduciary obligation we have as an independent financial advisory firm to provide advice in each client’s best interests. For clients who want to engage in principled investing, we work to provide them bestin-class options. But ESG investing isn’t right for everyone.
ESG and other types of principled investing are not appropriate when the client does not want to incorporate these kinds of philosophical beliefs into their investment strategy. Critics of ESG allege that some investors are not even aware that certain values are affecting their investments. If an institution’s investment policy statement or an individual’s personal investment plan prohibits consideration of factors besides pure growth potential, then ESG simply cannot be a factor.
Transparency and client consent are essential. On that, we should all agree. With that as common ground for supporters and critics of ESG, perhaps ESG will eventually fall off the list of polarized issues and stay out of the headlines.
For our part, we at Goelzer believe providing expert analysis on ESG is another important way we honor our fiduciary obligation to our clients and uphold our corporate responsibility to contribute our time, talent, and treasure to help make a difference. •
Cotterill is Chief Operating Officer of Goelzer Investment Management, one of Indiana’s largest registered independent advisory firms.
Corporate leaders, familiarize yourself with ESG to stay relevant
By Elizabeth Coit
Change comes slowly, but it comes. The scope of our role as leaders includes change we can’t ignore. According to recent Gallop and Edelman Trust Barometer polls, 81% of the public expects CEOs to step in where government has failed. Most people feel business is not doing enough, especially related to climate change, economic inequality, workforce reskilling, access to health care, the provision of trustworthy information, and systemic injustice.
Enter ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance. ESG is the evolved version of Corporate Social Responsibility. Like CSR, ESG is cultural, but it is so much more. ESG has power behind it.
Why do CSR and ESG matter? Because today’s workforce is different and wants different. From a hybrid workplace to increasingly technology-driven communications to an integrated work/life reality, the dramatic shortage of qualified workers means we cannot ignore the needs and wants of our workers without putting our businesses at risk.
Today’s workforce is 4 generations: Boomers, Gen X, Millennials (Gen Y), and Gen Z. The retiring generation of senior executives—those creating and setting the tone for their company’s cultures—are a dwindling group of Traditionalists and Boomers. The new workforce of Generations X, Y, and Z have a different view of their work and the role it plays in their lives.
Generation X, Millennials (Generation Y), and Generation Z …
• Are hard workers (50% of Millennials have a side job) but value leisure time as critical to having a meaningful life;
• Desire a holistic existence and strongly endorse the idea of work-life balance;
• Are stressed. According to a recent Gallup poll, even pre-pandemic 61% of women and 52% of men felt stressed on a typical day.
• Want “purpose”
• Are mobile. It has become a career goal to diversify one’s work experience across roles, companies, and geography. According to a Gallup poll, nearly half of all US employees are considering a job change.
Creating a culture that attracts and keeps this workforce requires a new approach to organizing and managing their work. Surveys show that 75% of millennials and Gen Zs, groups that soon will represent more than 60% of our workforce, would take a pay cut to work for a company with demonstrated results in socially responsible strategies.
Workers aren’t the only ones with evolving demands. Among institutional investors, 88% consider a company’s performance in areas of environment and social impact and responsible governance. These criteria get the same weight as operational and financial considerations when evaluating the strength of a company as an investment. In fact, ESG is now the third pillar in the evaluation rubric for institutional investors. This matters, because institutional investors control approximately 80% of invested capital.
So, what is ESG?
It’s a culture and a way of doing business. Investors, employees, and customers increasingly evaluate companies against a broad set of criteria. (See lists in blue boxes.)
As we look to 2030 in our strategic plans, it is time that leaders decide how to shift from a narrow focus on shareholders to creating a broader, more balanced strategy focused on stakeholders.
The bottom line is that your culture should now be a critical part of your business strategy. Does your company’s strategy and culture meet the expectations and needs of your changing workforce, your customers, and of your investors? Whether you choose to lead the change or follow, your business needs to keep up. The next steps lie with you, and it starts at the top. Your leaders, including your board, must embrace the need for change.
It starts with evaluating your business. Ask yourself the tough questions, and don’t be afraid of the truth!
Consider fairness. Are your strategies and processes designed to deliver win-win outcomes for all your stakeholders? Do you know that to be true?
Consider integrity. Can your products and services stand on their own merits without exaggeration or omissions in their promotion? Do your stakeholders talk about you and your products/services with pride? Do you know how your stakeholders feel?
Consider sustainability. Does your business make efficient use of resources? Could it do better?
Ask your stakeholders. How does each group think you are doing? Know your starting point—what works, what needs to change, what is missing.
Focus! Review and rewrite (as needed) your strategic plan and key goals to include ESG strategies and goals.
Measure. Are you achieving your desired impact? What is working, what needs to change, what needs more resources (time, money, talent)? •
Coit is a principal with EA Coit Consulting and executive director of the Walker Center for Applied Ethics at Marian University. Learn more at EACoitConsulting.com and ethicscentermarian.org.
5 ESG assumptions that deserve a closer look
By David Adeleye, Scott Chinn, Julian Harrell and Walé Oriola
With fast-paced changes affecting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) developments, developing an ESG strategy is more nuanced than ever. Our clients face increasingly complex scenarios impacted by volatile economic and emerging political forces. The spectrum of ESG risk and opportunities certainly includes “win/loss” situations. However, in some instances, decisionmakers will need to weigh the “least bad” choice between competing stakeholder demands. Addressing these issues deserves strategic thought partnership and a closer look at potentially riskladen assumptions. What follows is a high level “pressure test” of five assumptions:
1. ESG will fade if the SEC’s proposed Climate-Related Risk Disclosure rule is overturned:
The Securities Exchange Commission’s proposed Climate-Related Risk Disclosure rule looms as a top priority for many decisionmakers. And there is an emerging consensus that the proposed disclosure rule will be challenged if the SEC adopts a final version. But assuming the proposed rule never surfaces (which is not guaranteed), the proposed climate disclosure framework and the fast-evolving, intersectional nature of ESG are here to stay. The implications of this “new normal” permeate risk and opportunity management.
In this regard, examining global financial trends is critical. For example, a recent Bloomberg article projects that assets under management (AUM) that incorporate ESG factors will exceed one-third of AUM globally (approximately $41 trillion by year end, and $50 trillion by 2025). The Climate Bonds Initiative also recorded more than $417 billion of ESG-related debt issuance in the first half of 2022. These developments, coupled with increased regulatory and multiplying stakeholder demands, will continue to expand even without a final SEC rule. Various forms of opposition to ESG will surface, but we anticipate this opposition will ultimately result in stronger ESG-related standards and business practices.
2. “ESG investing” and ESG corporate strategy are synonymous:
While ESG investing (i.e., integrating ESG factors into investment management decisions) is a significant piece of the ESG puzzle, it is not the entire picture. Conceptually, ESG corporate strategy is wideranging compared to ESG investing. ESG corporate strategy involves the implications of a company’s decisions to identify, adapt to (or ignore), and manage the global departure from “business as usual.” This “Great Transition” includes human capital management, biodiversity impacts, cybersecurity, and a host of other corporate activities intersecting with potential ESG risks and rewards.
3. ESG is “one size fits all”:
Working through ESG issues is challenging, but it is relatively clear that ESG strategy is not a “one size fits all” phenomenon. For example, a health care company could have unique ESG priorities as compared to a manufacturing or logistics company. In addition to industry segmentation, variables like geography, regulatory environment, stakeholder influence, and corporate mission may require somewhat individualized ESG decision-making. That said, evaluating ESG activities within a particular industry can facilitate analysis of one company’s performance against another. Additionally, ESG benchmarking can help develop industry-specific insight about fast-changing ESG risks and opportunities. Conversely, an aimless benchmarking exercise can exacerbate business risks, especially as the litigation bar focuses more on ESG issues (e.g., greenwashing, antitrust, consumer protection, etc.). Accordingly, mature ESG strategy can resemble a “unique corporate personality” that ideally reflects corporate innovation and engagement geared toward sustainability.
4. Global and federal standards are the only important ESG drivers:
This assumption has some veracity, but exceptions apply. For example, increased state attorneys general and consumer advocate activity is impacting how companies manage their ESG strategies. Many AGs are focused on ESG-related antitrust issues, truth-in-disclosures, “scoring” methodologies, the integration of ESG factors into investment processes by investment managers, and the interplay of ESG investment strategies with longstanding notions of fiduciary duties. This scrutiny may put companies between the “push” of the desire to expand ESG benchmarks and the “pull” of punitive governmental reaction for the same activity.
5. Implementing ESG strategy requires acceptance of climate change or other potentially polarizing topics:
When we counsel our clients, we would generally explain that because of the diverse nature of ESG, the client has to own where it is in the ESG journey. We endeavor to help the client selfreflect on its progress on the ESG spectrum and provide solutions that would help it improve its responsibility to its stakeholders. Our counseling approach on ESG matters is objective and dispassionate. Furthermore, we guide our clients to develop and manage their ESGrelated governance policies, including climate management policies, ESG investing strategies, and charitable and philanthropic engagements. ESG is complex, multifaceted, and ever-changing. Therefore, the timing, type, and magnitude of risks and opportunities are caseand company-specific. •
David Adeleye, Scott Chinn, Julian Harrell and Walé Oriola are attorneys at Faegre Drinker and advise clients on ESG matters.