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Why IT Leads the Pack in Corporate Social Responsibility

The idea that businesses have a responsibility beyond investors, bottom lines, and customers’ needs is no new concept. What is different about today’s tech industry is the constant feed of data at their disposal. With instantaneous intelligence, their actions are more proactive and allow them to lead the pack with corporate social responsibility.

So when a survey finds that more than 90% of business students would willingly sacrifice a percentage of their future salary to work for a company with a sense of social responsibility, tech companies listen. And when customers are vocal on social media about certain causes, tech companies monitor those sentiments and try to act with that data in mind.

Though not every business has a perfect record, some have found methods to balance pragmatic revenue generation with corporate social responsibility in a meaningful way.

They Monitor What’s Trending on Social and Swiftly Take Action

Social media provides plenty of raw information for data analytics. Traditionally, that data is used to gauge consumer awareness, brand reputation, and even product and service opportunities. However, some companies are using what’s buzzing on social media and news outlets as a way to direct their corporate social responsibility.

Much of Airbnb’s strategy revolves around what’s trending in their feeds. In October of 2016, as the destructive waves of Hurricane Matthew ravaged parts of Florida and South Carolina, Airbnb broadcasted a response. Anyone displaced by the storm lodged for free in select Airbnb locations. Over 3,000 Airbnb hosts opted to provide free lodging during disasters and opened their doors to the evacuees. As uncertainty reined around them, these evacuees had the security of knowing a guaranteed roof and warm bed awaited them.

This strategy is one that Airbnb duplicates with success, broadcasting their social consciousness and their service offering simultaneously. In the aftermath of natural disasters and the confusion surrounding President Trump’s travel ban, Airbnb was a haven. Though Airbnb is already part of the national conversation, social responsibility campaigns like this only expand brand awareness and boost reputation.

Monitoring social media and current events only takes a little extra awareness. How companies align their corporate social responsibility with trending events depends on the intersection of their brand persona, company values, and buyer segments. From a practical standpoint, smart social responsibility asks what do buyers already value about a company and what can be done to reinforce those beliefs?

They Find Ways to Do Good and See Immediate Benefits

Smart business decisions and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive. Google makes that abundantly clear. Transparency is one of Google’s major cornerstones and the search giant boasts its environmental sustainability contributions for the world to see. Everything from renewable energy projects to electronic waste reduction matters to Googlers. Looking at some of their most effective environmental projects, there is a very fine line between corporate social responsibility and good business sense.

Take for example their drive to lower data center usage. Google recognized that right now, 2% of all electricity worldwide goes to running data centers, an amount which could skyrocket if businesses fail to regulate their usage rates. Taking into consideration that 67% of all electricity comes from the use of fossil fuels, waste has grave impact on the environment. So, Google turned to machine learning tools to save on their energy costs.

As matter of practice, Google builds all of their data centers from the ground up. Each new data center slated for construction is an opportunity to pilot new cooling technology to offset mechanical chillers, new monitoring technology to give smart readings, or redesigned facilities to lower waste. Those experiments allowed them to reduce energy consumption for cooling by 40% and overall energy by 15% over an 18 month period.

Corporate social responsibility in this case had the potential to save Google millions. They are not the only tech company doing so. Those who follow a path of telescopic thinking see obstacles down the road and use socially responsible strategies to mitigate them. Turns out environmentalism is good for business.

They Think with the Future in Mind

Few industries worry about the pipeline drying up quite like the tech industry. Industry innovators are like oil prospectors, surveying remote tracts of the talent landscape in the hopes of finding candidates bursting with new ideas.

One facet of that strategy involves seeking out new perspectives, increasingly from underrepresented segments of the IT workforce. McKinsey & Company studies show that companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity financially outperform those in the lower quartile by 15% and 35%, respectively. Bringing more diverse candidates into the funnel has an economic case, and some companies are using their strong sense of corporate social responsibility as a sourcing tool.

In the Chicagoland area, sponsors from the tech industry seek out organizations that distill technical proficiency from raw talent. Nonprofits like i.c.stars nudge talented potential in the right direction. The program itself is designed to provide resilient and solutions-oriented adults who lack formal technology education with hands-on training. Sponsors contribute to an immersive program unlike any other.

Participants in the program are exposed to real-world challenges for 60 to 90 hours a week over the course of a 16 week curriculum. They learn under the guidance of volunteers from within the industry, adapting to face challenges already crowding the horizon. When companies bring aboard interns who have gone through the i.c.stars program, they find resourceful IT talent with the work ethic to seek out solutions.

Download our i.c.stars case study

The residual effects on the community are incredible. Not only does the i.c.stars program provide companies with singular talent, but it closes the wage gap in Chicago neighborhoods. Participants, who earned a 12 month average of $9,846 before the program, now average $57,240 a year. Since these participants are in part selected for their community involvement, i.c.stars graduates find ways to pay their success forward.

Beyond that, companies get the benefit of boosting their recognition in underrepresented groups, influencing where those candidates turn when they seek out employment.

Finding Your Path to Corporate Social Responsibility

The shape of your corporate social responsibility depends upon the values of your organization. Every company has different strengths, so playing to those will elicit the best results. If you are interested in learning more about i.c.stars, sign up for Capitalize on Illinois Conference 2017. There you can network with over 200 C-Level IT executives, i.c.stars alumni, sponsors, and board members as we interact during discussion sessions about the impact of Immigration and the Global workforce on your team, business, and company culture.


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