Socially Responsible Companies: 10 Ethical Employment Practices to Adopt in 2020 (and Beyond)

5 min

2020 has been a tough year.

From the coronavirus pandemic to historic US job losses—not to mention the accelerating climate change countdown—there’s more than one reason 2020 has been officially dubbed “the worst year yet”.

But despite the difficulties, job candidates are sticking to their values. According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2020, the pandemic has inspired young workers to take positive action in their communities, leading to rising job loyalty in socially responsible companies, which is a pretty cool silver lining. 🌥️

We’ve known for a while that the younger workforce prioritizes employer ethics. In fact, 46% of Americans say positive social impact is one of the top factors for having pride in their work, and 39% of professionals would consider leaving an unethical brand. 

The workforce is shouting its demands loud and clear: it’s time for companies to take social responsibility seriously.

We’ve researched some of the world’s most socially responsible companies and compiled a list of 10 ethical employment practices that are changing the game—from DEI to sustainability practices and everything in between. 

Here’s how it’s done.

The top 10 real-world ethical employment practices from the world’s most socially responsible companies

Ethical employment practice #1— Include social aims in your company mission like Ben & Jerry’s

A company’s mission shows exactly what it hopes to achieve—it’s the central practice that influences everything

Multi-million-dollar ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s includes its commitment to social responsibility in its central mission, and indicates that everything the brand does is influenced by a desire for social change.

Their commitment to social responsibility is reflected in their actions—Ben and Jerry’s awards a whopping $1.8M+ every year to community action, social change and sustainability. And they make great ice cream too. 🍨😍

Socially responsible companies lesson #1: Show you’re serious about social responsibility—include social aims in your mission and share it with everyone who’ll listen.

Ethical employment practice #2— Leverage your knowledge for good like LinkedIn

Smaller companies don’t always have the ability to donate to good causes—and that’s where leveraging your knowledge comes in.

Socially responsible companies like LinkedIn offer free or reduced-price access to resources, over cold hard cash (although LinkedIn does offer community grants too).

The professional social network has a dedicated resource platform and a neat 50% discount on core products for nonprofits. In 2019 alone, they donated an impressive $186M in products through their non-profits program.

Socially responsible companies lesson #2:You may not be able to offer $$$ in charitable grants, but resources and knowledge make a great alternative.  

Ethical employment practice #3— Invest in sustainable processes like Levi Strauss & Co

If you want the world to take your sustainability efforts seriously, it’s good to practice what you preach.

Certain socially responsible companies, like Levi Strauss & Co, know they need to invest in their own sustainable practices before investing in outside projects (though they do have powerful community initiatives too). The 150-year-old clothing line takes a hard line on environmental sustainability throughout their product lifecycle, including their impressive Water<Less campaign which reduces manufacturing water consumption by up to 96%. 

Sew cool. 😉

Socially responsible companies lesson #3: Take a look at your processes to figure out where you can make the strongest impact. 

Ethical employment practice #4— Get connected via corporate volunteers like Disney

Every HR pro worth their weight knows about the awesome benefits of corporate volunteering. 

From connecting with communities to increasing brand awareness, there are a million and one reasons to get your employees out there. 

Disney is one socially responsible company that truly gets it. Their VoluntEAR program encourages employees—and their friends and families—to actively engage in charitable projects. Over 36 years, Disney employees have dedicated a massive 11M+ volunteer hours. They even hold a VoluntEAR of the Year award ceremony to celebrate those who give the most. 

Socially responsible companies lesson #4: Set up a corporate volunteering program and encourage employees to connect with local communities. 

Ethical employment practice #5— Commit (or recommit) to diversity like Starbucks

Diversity in the workplace is a one-way ticket to happier, more productive employees—plus it brings fresh ideas, new perspectives and an all-round awesome company culture. What’s not to love?

Starbucks is one company that takes its position on the “socially responsible companies” list seriously. The multi-billion-dollar coffee merchant has a diversity-hiring commitment that trumps the competition: not only have they pledged to hire 10K refugees by 2022 and 25K veterans by 2025, they’ve also hired 65K 18-24-year-olds through their Opportunity Youth program.

Socially responsible companies lesson #5: Revisit your hiring process to make sure it’s 100% bias-free, and set adventurous (but achievable) goals to show you’re serious about diversity.  

Ethical employment practice #6— Encourage learning and innovation like 3M

For many socially responsible companies, true impact is all about sharing the love. 💞

Multinational conglomerate, 3M, does this by investing in young minds. The 3M Young Scientist Challenge, for instance, is a novel solution to increase brand recognition and inspire the next generation of high-quality scientists to add to their 90K-strong workforce. Simple. 

 Socially responsible companies lesson #6: Invest in the next gen of your workforce by connecting with young people through school-based challenges.

Ethical employment practice #7— Give 1% for the Planet

Check out any media outlet and you’ll see environmental issues have taken a backseat to coronavirus—but that doesn’t mean those issues have gone away. 

That’s why businesses are signing up to Give 1% for the Planet—a charitable initiative that so far has raised over $265M for environment projects. Thousands of businesses, individuals and non-profits, including outdoor clothing-line Patagonia and popular Boston-based sparkling water brand, Spindrift, have signed up for the initiative

 With 73% of millennials willing to pay more for sustainable brands, donating a small percentage to a good cause is a social responsibility no-brainer. 

 Socially responsible companies lesson #7: Attract millennial support by donating a small percentage to a sustainable cause.

Ethical employment practice #8— Focus on fair pay like Dr Bronner’s

We live in a world of unfair wage hierarchies (think: 1000% pay increases for executives)—so it’s no wonder socially responsible companies stand out.

Dr Bronner’s is just one of the awesome socially responsible companies that cares about the pay gap. Their cap on executive pay means it’s only ever 5X greater than the lowest paid employee, plus the benefits are exactly the same for every single employee, including C-suite execs.

 Where do we sign? ✍️

 Socially responsible companies lesson #8: Make intentional pay decisions to reflect your company beliefs.

Ethical employment practice #9— Partner with like-minded companies like Klean Kanteen

When you’re the only socially conscious brand on the block, life can get pretty lonely—so be sure to reach out and expand your impact with like-minded companies. 

That’s exactly what B-Corp company Klean Kanteen does. Through their Sustainable Celebrations program, the family-owned water bottle company focuses all their donation and sponsorship efforts on partnering with external festivals and events to reduce plastic and increase sustainability. 

They host free filtered water stations, raise awareness of their social mission and help festival organizations become more sustainable.  

Socially responsible companies lesson #9: Work with other companies to increase awareness of your brand’s mission (and share some sustainability love on the way). 

Ethical employment practice #10— Adapt employee benefits to changing times like Ally Financial Inc

2020 has changed the business landscape for good—but the pandemic is just one example of the unexpected changes companies can face. 

That’s why businesses need to be able to quickly adapt to retain employees and weather the storm. 

Digital financial services company Ally Financial Inc is one great example of a company that has done just that. Faced with a global pandemic and 8K+ employees to support, Ally rose to the challenge and quickly expanded their benefits program to help navigate COVID-related difficulties. From a $1.2K tax-free financial assistant payment for employees earning $100K or less, to expanded child care support, Ally’s new offerings were designed to help employees stay safe, healthy and employed. 

Socially responsible companies lesson #10: Create a benefits plan that’s easily adaptable, and build it around helping employees stay employed. 

Socially responsible companies are the future

From diversifying teams to offering fair pay, there are a ton of simple ways to become a more ethical employer. And with a host of millennial and gen Z candidates eager to work for socially responsible companies, investing in social responsibility is a clear win-win.

But remember: to be a truly socially responsible company, you’ll need to go beyond lip service and stand up for real change. 

Candidates are switched on to ethical companies and can spot the difference between a company that says it’s socially conscious, and one that actually is. 

That’s why it’s so important to build social aims into the fabric of your company and to think about your workforce and the wider community with real compassion and authenticity. Trust us, the rewards are worth it.

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