Benchmark 4

Demonstrate your commitment



Benchmark 4: “Demonstrate your commitment” takes a leaf out of the Marketing department’s book: strong internal & external communications are required for stakeholders to understand your vision and to it seriously.

Benchmark 4 Components:

  1. Public commitment through pledge / announcement of targets
  2. Senior leadership active encouragement & involvement


1. Public commitment through pledge / announcement of targets

A presentation at Boston College’s 2018 International Corporate Citizenship Conference reinforced the importance of being accountable to community stakeholders, employees, executive leadership, and department leaders by setting targets and reporting results.


A great example is Gap Inc. who have pledged to recruit 5% of their new store hires from their This Way Ahead programme by 2025. By giving store managers such a tangible target, they’re able to clearly communicate and reinforce the seriousness of their ambitions, both internally and externally.


For start-ups, whereby CSR policy and infrastructure are often in a nascent stage (not to mention an inherent lack of cash flow and time), getting involved in movements such as Pledge1%, who help early-stage companies integrate philanthropy into their core business at an early stage, can be very appealing. Kait Sheridan explained how flexible their approach can be: start-ups can pledge any one, or a combination, of equity, time, product or profit to causes and non-profits of their choosing, and companies can choose any % contribution, not just the 1%. A few of the start-ups we spoke with have made the pledge, including Optimizely.


Another such approach is by becoming a certified B Corporation, a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit, whereby senior leaders are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. B Corp originally only targeted SMEs (a lot of tech companies find it helps them better compete for recruiting engineering talent), but actually found larger companies wanting it too.


2. Senior leadership active encouragement & involvement

Harvard Business Review’s report The Business Case for Purpose describes how 89% of global executives believe that a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction, yet poor communication from senior leadership is the biggest barrier to communicating such a purpose adequately.


McKinsey believe that if a company wants to redefine the way it thinks about itself (for example, with a newly established CSR strategy), it requires leaders to promote their vision again and again with unremitting energy, both internally and externally.


Communication from the top can be a simple as a regular update emails & success stories from the CEO/office MD or in-person, bi-weekly “all hands” meetings, which seem to be popular with start-ups we met such as Lever.

What each tier does well

Established Company


The Established companies performed fairly well in getting senior leadership to actively encourage and get involved in volunteering (scoring 3.89 / 5 on avg). This was often as simple as sending regular emails with success stories from the CEO or other local senior leaders.


Did tech help?
By nature of online communications, technology helped senior leaders “be everywhere at once” and communicate on a regular basis to a large group of employees, although beyond that tech was not particularly relevant to high scores on this benchmark for this tier.



High-Growth companies scored particuarly well in senior leadership encouragement & involvement, although to a lesser extent than other peers.


Did tech help?
Most of the companies in this tier utilised regular “All hands” meetings to showcase senior leadership encouragement of volunteering. Besides the odd webinar / newsletter, limited tech involved.



For SMEs it was fairly common for senior leadership to actively encourage and often get involved in volunteering (with an avg score of 4.14/5). In a few examples the entire company would close the office to go volunteering for the day (CEO included) – perhaps a luxury afforded only to this tier!


Did tech help?
Given the close proximity of SME CEOs to the rest of the employees (often just sitting one co-working desk away), tech was not particularly relevant to high scores on this benchmark for this tier.

Filling the gaps

Toggle through each tier below to explore the weakest areas of performance against this benchmark:


How tech might help

Use of websites and social media were (unsurprisingly) key to helping companies make a public commitment or pledge.


Other ways included being featured in annual Sustainability Reports (this was often only the Established companies), being mentioned in job-listings (i.e. “we volunteer a minmum of X hours per month as a team”), or by signing officially to movements like Pledge 1%, which do not necessarily involve any technology. 

Case Studies:

Tech as an enabler

MLB Logo

MLB strongly draw upon social media to demonstrate their commitment to social impact. Through encouraging their all-star players to share success stories with their followers on a regular basis, MLB are able to demonstrate their commitment widely and tap into a hugely diverse community.

Education-specific best practice

ATT Logo

AT&T typically announce their very ambitious goals through their website, press and social media channels. Drawing upon the scalability of e-mentoring, they were able to tap into a greater proportion of their workforce to meet their 2020 pledge of 1m employee-to-student mentoring hours well ahead of schedule. As part of their continued commitment to education, AT&T now aim to increase US high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020.


DonorsChoose Logo

When Bronx high-school teacher Charles Best built the version version of in his classroom, he certainly wasn’t shy about his lofty ambitions to reach every school in America. The non-profit, which empowers public school teachers to request much-needed materials and student experiences from individuals online has now been used in 80% of US public schools.


Through not being afraid to demonstrate big ambitions so publicly, DonorsChoose has been able to build an organisational culture around achieving its mission, and rallied a multitude of third-party supporters: from Oprah Winfrey (!) and Gwyneth Paltrow (whose lifestyle site Goop includes an optional donation to DonorsChoose in their checkout pages) to Ripple, the crytocurrency company, who funded all of the live projects on the site in March 2018.

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