Ideas for Leaders #040

Engaged Employees: CSR, Sustainability and Performance

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Key Concept

Engaging employees with sustainability issues can play an important role in the creation of both social and commercial value. Forward-thinking companies are embracing sustainability programs driven from the top down and bottom up, to gain a number of additional benefits interlinked with increased employee engagement and performance.

Idea Summary

‘Employee engagement’ has now become a major concern for companies, as a result of the massive decreases in workforce sizes. Recent challenging economic times have led employers to become more concerned about how to better engage the employees they are left with; but that ‘magic bullet’ that ensures commitment, motivation and productivity is yet to discovered by many.

Could sustainability issues and responsible business practices be instrumental in enhancing performance? It seems so; in fact, as well as encouraging employee engagement, a number of other inter-linked benefits include greater business value and improved corporate social performance. Sounds like a winning formula, and if you needed any more convincing, research also shows that engagement with sustainability proves attractive to potential recruits.

Employee engagement, corporate social performance and sustainable business value can be linked as follows:

  • Employee engagement is both a driver and an outcome of corporate social performance and sustainable value creation.
  • Corporate social performance has both a direct and indirect impact (via employee engagement) on the creation of sustainable business value.
  • Social intrapreneurs - who are engaged in both social and commercial innovation - can improve corporate social performance and enhance sustainable business value.

Business Application

An integrated ‘top-down/bottom-up’ approach is the starting point for organizations that want to combine employee engagement, corporate social performance and sustainable business value. The top-down approach focuses on developing management strategy, policies and initiatives for roll-out across the organization. The bottom up approach involves developing and linking grassroots activities with each other and with corporate strategy and objectives.

Furthermore, organizations should adopt the ‘four Ps’ of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Social networking is another important factor; web platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, emails and instant messaging all take up a big part of our time now. Companies can harness the power of these social networks to create an integrated ‘top down/bottom up’ approach that inspires employees to take individual actions in support of corporate responsibility programmes whose values they share.

Finally, start by discovering who and where the most passionate ‘sustainability change agents’ are inside and outside your organization’s social network. Then, engage these individuals in dialogue on how to interlink sustainability into a company’s overall strategy.

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Idea conceived

  • 2011

Idea posted

  • January 2013

DOI number



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