Redefining CSR: Tech Vendors Embrace Corporate Strategic Responsibility to Stay Relevant in Changing Channel Ecosystem

The idea that companies have some obligation to do social good is not new. In recent decades, CSR (corporate social responsibility) has become a strategic priority — a powerful best practice not only for making a difference in the world but also for ensuring growth and future relevance.

Starbucks’ Harold Schultz became something of a poster child for the concept in the late 1980s. In the last few years, the coming-of-age of millennials — now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce — has woven CSR into the fabric of corporate culture at companies that view purpose as a means to engage employees and guide decisions. 

Employees Prefer Working for Companies that Give Back

The preference to work for companies that give back is particularly strong among millennials. Expect the trend to become even more firmly entrenched as Gen-Z starts entering the workforce — a cohort of up-and-coming employees that believe businesses profit from making the world a better place. These and other trends taking shape in the boardroom, investment circles and marketplace are contributing to the notion that CSR should be redefined to mean corporate strategic responsibility. 

CSR in the Tech Channel

What does corporate strategic responsibility look like in the technology channel? At companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, CSR is all about investing in opportunities that help individuals and communities achieve economic success and pay that success forward. 

In many, but not all cases, vendors put their resources into projects that will generate returns for their own companies and the tech sector as a whole in the form of goodwill and by feeding the talent pool. Here are some examples:

  • For two decades, the Cisco Networking Academy has been bringing education, technical training and career mentorship to over 9 million students in 180 countries. By working to overcome problems resulting from talent, skills and gender gaps, Cisco is transforming opportunity into a valuable business commodity.
  • To reduce income gaps between people that have the skills to succeed in 21st-century careers and those that don’t, Microsoft partners globally with governments, educators, and businesses to ensure all youth have access to digital skills training and inclusive computer science education.
  • Just last week, Apple announced a commitment to provide $2.5 billion in funding to help address the affordable and available housing crisis in California. The company is following on the heels of Google and Facebook, which each pledged $1 billion this year to help combat high housing costs. In addition to ensuring Silicon Valley remains a vibrant place where people like teachers, public safety workers and other service professionals can thrive, these investments serve the strategic purpose of making it easier to attract technical talent and more affordable to retain it.
  • Recognizing that all companies regardless of sector flourish when employees are enabled and motivated, Amazon focuses on a number of CSR strategies on educating and empowering employees.

We’re heading into the holidays, the season of giving— and receiving. How can your company make a difference with CSR by ingraining corporate strategic responsibility into your corporate culture? This Forbes post from last week provides some helpful points to consider.