- Many U.S. business leaders say they plan to "take a more expansive view" about their organizations' responsibilities toward individual and societal well-being following a turbulent 2020, according to research released Feb. 9 by consulting firm Mercer.
- According to a statement discussing the results, 60% of U.S. HR leaders said their companies have "continued or stepped up the pace" toward a business approach that takes into account environmental, social and governance, or ESG, metrics. To that end, Mercer said U.S. companies are expected to invest more in analytics and insights for areas including diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Benefits plans may also be impacted. Mercer observed increased interest in "greater personalization of inclusive benefits" in its analysis, and the firm found 56% of respondents were planning to offer more access to remote health and benefit options. Nearly half said they planned to improve analytics of pay equity.
Corporate social responsibility has long been a shorthand to describe outreach activities to external communities and stakeholders. Employers embraced CSR efforts to varying degrees of effectiveness, but even before the pandemic, commentators noted an apparent shift on the subject among U.S. business leaders.
One example came from the Business Roundtable. The collective of U.S. CEOs said it updated in 2019 its mission statement to reflect a new set of commitments both to workers and the country broadly. Namely, the group identified activities such as investing in employees and supporting the communities in which its member organizations work as being integral to the core purpose of the corporate model. This language differed from Business Roundtable's previous mission, which more directly stated that the purpose of the corporation was to deliver value to shareholders.
Fast forward more than a year later, and external issues have become a significant focus for businesses of all sizes. After a pandemic and months of social unrest nationwide, many organizations have opted to prioritize inclusion in their business strategies, according to research from McKinsey & Company.
That focus has led employers to more strongly connect their CSR efforts with their diversity and inclusion efforts, including investing in underserved communities and creating strategic partnerships with nonprofits and other stakeholders seeking to solve societal problems, sources previously told HR Dive. Employers are also shifting their core business strategies in response, a story told in part by the recent growth of D&I-focused hiring efforts.
Additionally, employers are looking inward and enlisting their own employees in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. For example, officials at ADP previously told HR Dive about the company's use of business resource groups to foster conversations about difficult topics and help co-workers find balance between work and life. Other employers, as noted by Mercer, upped their investments in employees. TIAA was one of several employers to expand backup care benefits during the pandemic to aid working parents.
But HR teams still have room for improvement, according to Mercer, which noted that "only 16%" of U.S. HR leader respondents were taking into account 2020 organizational shifts and their impact on minority groups, while 15% were considering the pandemic's impact on such groups.