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Top 20 Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives for 2017

Corporate Social Responsibility

Give your company the competitive recruiting-edge and help the world at the same time!

[For the latest in corporate social responsibility, see here for the Top 20 Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives for 2018.]

As Jennifer Dickey pointed out, a study by NYU and Imperative found that “purpose-oriented employees” tend to remain with employers 20 percent longer than those at other companies and are about 47 percent more likely to be more engaged promoters of the companies they work for.

Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important to today’s candidates. Companies that offer a workplace and corporate culture of caring about essential social issues can be successful at both business and giving back to the wider community.

With that in mind, what are some of the world’s leading socially responsible companies currently doing to make such an impact?

Here are twenty of the top organizations demonstrating a diverse range of social responsibility goals and initiatives:

20. General Electric

The GE Foundation contributed $88 million to community and educational programs in 2016. They also match contributions by employees and retirees through their GE Foundation Matching Gifts Program.

The foundation’s signature Developing Health programs focus on health-care access for communities around the world.

19. Deloitte

This professional consulting firm makes clear its “commitment to driving societal change and promoting environmental sustainability”. Working on innovative solutions along with government and non-profit organizations, Deloitte makes an effort to encourage its employees to donate time to pro bono work.

This pays off for the company as well. In fact, 83 percent of Deloitte employees say that pro bono work has made a positive impact on job satisfaction and 60 percent reported “significant gains in job-relevant skills”.

18. IBM

Citizen IBM embodies the company’s dedication to corporate citizenship. IBM supports a wide range of efforts for education, disaster relief, diversity, economic development, global health, and more. Their approach to corporate citizenship aligns with that of their business — “applied technology, continuous transformation, and sustainable change”.

In 2016, The World Community Grid combined the computing power of idle PCs and mobile devices across a worldwide network for an equivalent of 167,000 years of computing time to support projects such as cancer treatment research.

17. 3M

With 90,000 employees, 3M has adopted “science applied to life” as a trademark. It’s 3MGives program — with $67 million funded in 2016 — focuses on community and the environment, plus educational initiatives that help boost student interest in science and technology.

One program, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, asks students from grades 5 to 8 to find innovative solutions to everyday problems, with ten finalists offered the opportunity to work with a 3M scientist during a summer mentorship.

16. Zappos

Zappos’ core values include “Embrace and Drive Change” and “Be Humble”. Their charitable group, Zappos for Good, works with charitable organizations to donate goods such as shoes, books, and school supplies to those in need.

15. Cisco

Cisco’s CSR programs make use of the company’s technology and resources to aid underserved communities with education, healthcare, economic empowerment, and disaster relief.

They have set a goal to impact 1 billion people by 2025 positively.

14. TOMS

TOMS was founded on the concept of sustainable giving through a for-profit business model. “One for One” started with the promise of donating one pair of shoes for every pair purchased, but has since expanded to programs supporting a wide range of services for people in need.

They also invest in jobs, social entrepreneurship, and integration with other charitable organizations through their Giving Partners program.

13. Apple

As one of the world’s leading technology companies, Apple takes its global responsibility seriously. One aspect of its social initiatives is the environment, adopting a mission to “ask less of the planet”.

Greenpeace has named Apple the “greenest tech company in the world” for three consecutive years. Not only does the company encourage its IT partners to take full advantage of renewable energy, Apple packaging is now manufactured with 99 percent recycled paper products.

12. LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s non-profit initiative, LinkedIn for Good, works with various organizations to connect underserved communities to economic opportunity. They partner with youth training organizations, veterans career services, refugee resource networks, and more.

Being a social networking service, they also utilize their platform to provide LinkedIn members with channels to participate in mentorships, donate time, and find volunteering opportunities through their Volunteer Marketplace.

11. Walt Disney Company

Disney, the number one company in the entertainment industry, has been ranked one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune for two years in a row. The company’s social mission is to strengthen communities “by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most” and gave more than $400 million to nonprofit organizations in 2016.

The company’s “VoluntEARS” program encourages employees to donate time, which has totaled to 2.9 million hours of service since 2012 with a goal of reaching five million hours of employee community service by 2020.

10. Alphabet (Google)

Regularly ranked as one of the most valuable brands in the world, and well-known for treating its employees well, Google supports a wide range of initiatives based on innovative use of technology to achieve social goals.

One of its goals is “Data-driven, human-focused philanthropy—powered by Google”. This takes the form of programs such as using data to uncover racial injustice, translating books through an open-sourced platform to improve education, and — one close to our heart at SmartRecruiters — connecting people with jobs to enhance economic mobility worldwide.

9. BMW

Just finished celebrating its 100th year in business, The BMW Group has maintained its rank as one of the world’s most sustainable automotive company as rated in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes.

This aspect of BMW’s operations is only one of the company’s social responsibility programs, which include education, wellness, and inter-cultural understanding as key tenets of a commitment to “social peace” and “stable economic development”.

8. Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic’s Change is in the Air sustainability initiative has three main pillars: environment, sustainable design and buying, and community investment.

Since 2007, they have reduced total aircraft carbon emissions by 22% and have partnered with LanzaTech to develop low carbon fuels for the future. Virgin Holidays donates £200,000 annually to the Brandon Center for Entrepreneurship Caribbean to support young entrepreneurs in Jamaica. In 2016, through onboard collection of spare foreign currency from customers, they raised over £500,000 for charity partner WE.

7. Levi Strauss & Co.

Like many companies on this list, Levi Strauss & Co. demonstrates social responsibility to a large extent through sustainability initiatives that are “sewn into the fabric” of the company.

One trademarked campaign, Water<Less, significantly reduces water use in manufacturing, by up to 96 percent for some styles. Since launching the process in 2011, the company has saved more than one billion liters of water. By 2020, the company expects to manufacture 80 percent of its products through this process, up from 25 percent today.

6. Dell

Dell has implemented the 2020 Legacy of Good Plan as their commitment to “drive human progress” through environmental sustainability, addressing community challenges, global supply chain responsibility, hiring diversity, and, ultimately, a dedication to putting more back than they take out.

The Net Positive Project goal is, by 2020, to contribute 10x the good that it takes to create and use their technology.

5. Salesforce

Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce sums up corporate social responsibility quite clearly when he says “The business of business Is improving the state of the World.”

The company has adopted an integrated philanthropic approach called the 1-1-1 model. This means that one percent of the company’s equity is set aside for grants in communities where employees live and work, one percent of the company’s product is donated to non-profit organizations, and one percent of each employee’s time is donated to community initiatives. It’s a simple model that’s easily understood.


The IKEA Foundation focuses on the Circle of Prosperity — funding home, health, education, and sustainable income for communities in need. As stated by the founder, their mission is to “create a better everyday life for as many people as possible around the world”.

In 2017, the foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign funded a solar farm to bring renewable power to Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp. This is the world’s first solar plant built in a refugee setting and will save $1.5 million, as well as reduce CO₂ emissions by 2,370 tons annually.

3. Starbucks

As a company established in the 1970s, Starbucks has always operated with a sensitivity to social responsibility — committed to sustainability and strengthening communities.

For example, the company has committed to providing one million coffee trees to farmers as a partner in Conservation International’s “Sustainable Coffee Challenge.” In addition, the company plans to hire 10,000 refugees across 75 countries in the next five years, plus, hire 25,000 veterans by 2025.

2. Bosch

The company continues to operate by the values of founder Robert Bosch, who said “I have always acted according to the principle that it is better to lose money than trust.” The credo that “responsibility creates trust” carries through in the company’s efforts around ecological and social improvement.

Bosch invests 50% of its R&D budget in technologies supporting conservation and environmental protection. The Bosch eXchange program remanufactures used car components, generating 23,000 metric tons less CO₂ annually compared to new production.

1. Ben & Jerry’s

This company has a reputation for social responsibility that goes back to its original IPO in 1985. That’s when the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was created with an initial gift of 50,000 shares and a decision of the company’s Board that 7.5 percent of the company’s pretax profits be allocated to philanthropy.

The foundation now awards more than $1.8 million per year to fund community action, social change, sustainability, and other initiatives in the company’s home state of Vermont and throughout the country.

“Walk the walk”

Senior executives of these companies know that social responsibility requires not just words on paper, but taking action. Their goals may differ and their activities may change over time, but these initiatives demonstrate the commitment each organization has to its local and global community — and that the organization “walks the walk,” not just “talks the talk”.