United States

Formalized corporate social responsibility planning varies

Few clear trends in CSR approaches of middle market businesses


According to the MMBI survey results, over 90 percent of middle market executives indicated their companies were engaged in some form of social responsibility. Specific areas of support most frequently included:

  • Community organizations (58 percent)
  • Educational support (52 percent)
  • Children and youth issues (42 percent)
  • Health and wellness (42 percent)

Among executives whose companies supported these identified causes, most indicated the cause was a high priority for their organization and support for a cause or issue was typically a financial investment. And smaller middle market companies, those with annual revenues of $10 million to 50 million, 63 percent indicated they were more likely to invest in community organizations.

However, while community and other issues were significant concerns for middle market businesses, the way they formally addressed these causes varied. Only a little over a third (38 percent) of middle market organizations indicated they had a formal social responsibility plan, with larger organizations more likely than smaller organizations to have a plan (50 percent versus 26 percent). Among those that have a formal CSR plan, over three quarters (78 percent) indicated the plan was in writing as part of the organization’s mission, vision and values statements.

The reasons organizations engaged in social responsibility planning included to support local community (74 percent), to reinforce organizational values (61 percent), to enhance the working environment or culture (58 percent) and to enhance or improve employee morale (56 percent).

Formal CSR planning in action

RSM serves to illustrate the impact of a formalized CSR plan. In 2014, the RSM US Foundation was established—along with a comprehensive CSR strategy—to enhance giving activity already happening in the firm’s offices across the country. The mission was carefully linked to the firm’s overall vision and core values, and reinforced the idea of building tomorrow’s middle market leaders by supporting programs focused on education and serving youth in the areas of hunger, housing and health.

“Since the strategy and foundation’s inception, a more focused and strategic approach has allowed the firm to provide more value and concentration related to its CSR programs,” says Chief Financial Officer and RSM US Foundation Board Chair Doug Opheim.

“Previously, we received so many requests for various causes and our efforts were spread thin,” Opheim says. “Now, with focus, we can be so much more instrumental in addressing the challenges in our communities and be more successful in our mission to develop middle market leaders.”

RSM has realized other benefits resulting from formal CSR planning. According to Sara Weber Laczo, the firm’s corporate communications leader, the organization has seen an uptick in employee experience metrics since the launch of their CSR and cultural diversity and inclusion programs.

“In the last 11 years, our employee engagement survey has shown a 20-point increase in the statement: ‘I feel good about the way the firm contributes to our community,’” says Laczo. “We’ve also uplifted our brand significantly in the marketplace, increased our talent recruitment appeal, as well as elevated general impressions of RSM as a result of our CSR activities.”

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Report explores corporate social responsibility, diversity and inclusion in the middle market and the value of formalized planning.

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