Welcome 2018: Corporate Responsibility Trends

Welcome 2018: Corporate Responsibility Trends

When I envisioned 2018 as a kid, I for sure thought we would be flying our cars and people would be moving about town on hover boards. Is anyone still working on that? Well even though we are a bit behind on the flying car front, there is no doubt 2017 delivered on many fronts.

So, welcome 2018! I can only imagine what is in store. So what better time to look at 2018 trends in business.

As the company’s Prius driving socially liberal minded employee, I thought I would take this opportunity to speak about what 2018 trends we are likely to see on the corporate social responsibility front, known as CSR. This is an increasing sector of business strategic initiatives and one that in 2018 may be more visible and important than ever before.


If your company does not have a recently reviewed Harassment Policy, ummmm #GETONE. 2017 started with explosive claims logged against high profile executives at Uber and closed the year out with an explosion of accusations and firings from entertainment, to news, media, Silicon Valley, and Capitol Hill. The #MeToo movement and #TimesUp movement were birthed from the entertainment industry, but the #TimesUp movement comes with a legal defense fund worth millions to protect women and men in industries where speaking up has previously been economically difficult. This is a trend we will continue to see throughout 2018 with increased attention at meaningful change in policy and legislation. Executives and leaders need to educate themselves, their employees, and walk beyond the HR Training Room and have a “voice”.

Generation Z

Generation Z is joining the workforce. SERIOUSLY? Am I the only one who didn’t realize there was anything after a millennial? I thought everyone under a certain age would just be lumped into that Millennial group. Generation Z is larger than their predecessors, and according to surveys even more driven by social impact when it comes to their decisions. As companies continue to prioritize recruitment of top talent, being dialed into what attracts this group will be, or is already, important. Surveys show 77% of Gen Z’ers believe that the level of diversity impacts their decision to work at a company and 92% say a company’s impact on society would impact their decision to work for a company.


Diversity will continue to be a social change driver in business in 2018. Think beyond gender diversity. Culturally laws and legislation are constantly changing at the federal and state level to protect broader cultural definition of diversification. This social change is not just about liability either. This is about recognizing that companies that embrace new ideas and diverse leadership teams will lead in innovation and attracting top talent.

Investors are also becoming increasingly interested in what is known ESG Factors, Environmental, Sustainability and Governance factors. These are defined as three factors that measure the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company. A KPMG article noted engagement and activism are expected to increase for 2018 proxy season.

“Following the 2017 annual meeting season, which saw shareholder proposals on climate change and board diversity win majority support for the first time, investors’ mood is “empowered,” said David M. Lynn, partner and cochair of the securities practice at Jenner & Block LLP.”

Brand Activism

Brand Activism is the idea that companies will move from just being mission and values driven to having a voice and stance in and on political and social issues. This trend is expected to increase in 2018 as we enter another highly contentious political year. Consumerism is driving this change and forcing the brands they support to have an impact and a stance.

Nielson’s annual Global Corporate Sustainability Report, reports interesting statistics on millennials that are emerging as the dominant economic consumer force:

Nielson published its annual Global Corporate Sustainability Report. It indicated that, globally:

– 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if that product comes from a sustainable brand.
– 73% of surveyed millennials indicate they are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand
– 81% of millennials expect their preferred companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship.

Companies are also putting their dollars where their voices are in investments in start-up companies that make a social or environmental impact.

Environmental Disaster Support at the Corporate Level

It is no doubt that 2017 has brought devastating national disasters across the country and the globe. In fact, reinsurers estimate a $135 billion dollar payout over losses due to natural disasters in 2017.

Companies are expanding their role in recovery and this trend will continue in 2018. Companies will align themselves in likened causes, but also many will set up funds throughout the year to allow them the ability to be more responsive to disasters as they occur.

A recent Forbes article gave the example of Planet Fitness, who was just introducing a “Judgement Free Generation” campaign supporting Boys and Girls Clubs of America. They were able to redirect the funds raised to local clubs impacted when hurricane Harvey hit in Texas.

The corporate response to Harvey in Texas, raising over 100 million dollars in support, and hurricane Irma bringing similar corporate responses. Outside of dollars, corporations have taken part in collecting and delivering aide and providing volunteers. Employees expect the companies they work for to contribute in a meaningful way.

Maybe I am a bleeding heart, but just writing this article gives me hope. It is so hard in today’s news cycle to see much that is positive; the fact that consumers and employees desire the companies they work for and support to have a positive impact is a good thing.

Personally, I say, hey, a pair of shoes for me, a pair for someone in need, especially since the shoes are cute, and since I am not a millennial or a Generation Z’er, that they are comfy, I am down to support that company.

(check out this article to see some of the corporate donations to natural disaster)