When we measure employee engagement, some of the questions in our survey determine how employees feel about 'giving something back' or the extent to which they perceive their organisation has a positive impact on society. By focusing on charitable activities, helping out in the local community and minimising impact on the environment, organisations make their people proud to work there.

It's wonderful that standards in corporate social responsibility continue to rise alongside customer and employee expectations, as organisations are pushed to consider 'good growth'; an aspiration that many progressive leaders and entrepreneurs believe is also the route to sustainable profitability.

Although corporate donations to charity and corporate sustainability policies are certainly part of the picture, it's also a great opportunity to get employees involved. People feel energised by having the chance to take paid time off to do some local charity work, or to take part in brainstorming sessions on how to cut your carbon footprint. Not only that, these efforts can have team-building benefits, bringing people together and building energy and relationship - the ingredients of engagement.

Working with the ‘best companies’, we have seen some great examples of how businesses have optimized their Corporate Social Responsibility; so here are top five tips, that are easily actionable, to improve yours.


One company on last year’s list created a Living Wall which covers 350 sq. metres with more than 10,000 ferns, herbaceous plants and 16 tonnes of soil meaning that the wall will be in bloom all year round. It has many green benefits including improving the local air quality, reducing the risk of flooding, attracting bees, insects and butterflies and the wall also makes for an attractive landmark in the area.

Stay Local

An unsuccessful CSR policy is usually down to a businesses feeling disconnected from any charitable organisations or lacking the time. By staying local and helping a charity or community project on the business’s doorstep you can easily see that what difference your help is making. Put aside an hour on a Friday afternoon were you and your staff can make a mass trip to the local charity of your choice, if it’s only down the road people are a lot more likely to get involved.

Give staff an Incentive

A great incentive we have seen is that staff could ‘buy’ one or two extra days of holiday with the money raised then being given to a charity. Employees were able to spread the cost over several months to accommodate all financial circumstances and ensure that our employees had as much flexibility as possible to participate in the scheme. It was a great incentive and benefited both employees and the charity.

Share what you know

Many of the companies on the Best 100 List are experts in their field and so have a lot of knowledge to share. One great example is a well-known phone service provider who run “Techy Tea Parties” for Age UK and other local charities, where guests can spend around two hours one-to-one with a member of the company’s team who helps them with their tech challenges. It’s about spending time with someone from their local community, over some tea and biscuits.

Keep the Fun

A CSR policy doesn’t always have to be a dry burden or a drain on resources. Sometimes it can actually aid productivity by inspiring employee engagement. Having a staff fun day every quarter, for example, not only gives employees something to look forward to but you can raise regular sums of money for a charity at the same time. Thinks School Sports day or Summer Fair and bring back ‘hook a duck’!

By Jonathan Austin, CEO of Best Companies, the brains behind The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies List