The Rise of CSR

Published: 9 June 2016

What do Airbnb, the Virgin Group and Microsoft all have in common?  The founders of all three businesses have pledged to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. 

Last week saw the addition of 17 new signatories to The Giving Pledge foundation ( There are now 154 of the world’s richest individuals and families from 16 different countries joined in this global initiative.  The Giving Pledge came from ideas and input generated between Warren Buffett, Bill & Melinda Gates and other philanthropists.  The aim is to encourage signatories to find ways to give that inspire them personally and benefit society.  

I’m not being cynical today and will dismiss the negative publicity around where some of these businesses pay tax.  Today I’m focusing on their charity and impact of these actions on their workforces.  In Michael Bloomberg’s letter of commitment to The Giving Pledge he writes “One of the senior managers at my company, Bloomberg, recently told me that part of his new hires recruiting pitch is to ask, “What other company can you work for where the owner gives nearly all the profits to charity?”  Nothing has ever made me prouder of my company than that one story.”   From a Recruiters perspective that’s a powerful message when you’re trying to attract top talent.

In the 15 years I’ve been in recruitment I’ve certainly seen a rise in CSR initiatives in the businesses I support.  Not only does it reflect well on the company externally from a culture perspective, but it can also improve staff engagement and can help differentiate them in a competitive market.  It’s mentioned more and more in the briefings I attend and can be a real draw for people to join a business.  I would encourage all businesses to review their CSR initiatives and consider how these might be incorporated into a recruitment strategy when looking to attract new talent. 

I’m not sure many of us will ever be in a position to give away half our wealth like those members of The Giving Pledge.  However, I’d be surprised if many people reading this didn’t regularly give to charity whether that’s through individual donations or through workplace initiatives.  Having recently moved companies myself, I’m pleased by how strong the CSR team is here at Berwick Partners with weekly communication around charitable initiatives.  Whether it’s a charity place to run in the Standard Chartered Great City Race, time off to volunteer transforming a garden at Indigo Children’s Services or a bake sale to raise money for Barnardo’s there’s plenty going on and it’s great to see.  

I’m sure there are negative things people can say about the individuals who have joined The Giving Pledge but surely the donations and the example it sets to society should to be applauded.  

Jane Firth is a Consultant in the HR Practice, she specialises in senior HR appointments across the financial services, professional services, media, retail and technology sectors.

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