Interconnectivity – ACCP’s Word of the Year

ACCP Staff

For the past several years, there’s been a trend on social media of selecting your #wordoftheyear. For ACCP, interconnectivity (our 2022 word of the year) chose us. As the membership association for purpose-driven companies and a career-long resource for corporate citizenship professionals, ACCP has a front-row seat to the trends shaping and influencing the work of CSR practitioners.

In 2022, weaving the driving trends in corporate responsibility together is the dawning of the era of interconnectivity – between business and consumers, corporations and employees, employees and communities, racial justice and environmental justice, climate change and the economy, and more. It is the connection of each movement to all the others. It is about doing good AND doing less harm. The work can no longer be siloed in one department or responsible to one stakeholder group. It is, by definition, connected and integrated throughout the business and affects a broad audience of stakeholders. From socially conscious consumers to belief-driven employees and activist investors, the marketplace demands that business prove itself anew each day to be a force for social and environmental good.

This year, it would be hard to miss that ESG is expanding in importance, and companies have begun to realize that having a strong foundation in all three ESG (environmental, social, governance) factors benefits both corporate performance and social impact. In fact, “Social” climbed to the most important ESG priority for U.S. investors in a 2020 study of global institutional investors.1 Additionally, 82% of U.S. CEOs said the pandemic shifted their focus toward the social component of their ESG programs.2

Advancing RACIAL EQUITY internally and externally is a continued corporate imperative. 55% of U.S. employees agree racism in the workplace has damaged their relationship with their employer – and that percentage is even higher for Asian, Black, and Latinx employees.3 Externally, 42% of consumers have started or stopped using a brand because of its response to the protests against systemic racism and calls for racial justice.4

The growing CLIMATE CRISIS threatens both business and society. 61% of investors surveyed hold companies responsible for mitigating climate change.5 Meanwhile, Maya Winkelstein of the Open Road Alliance advocates for integrating climate work into everything, “Rather than add a climate grantmaking priority, we need to integrate climate concerns into all of our work throughout our giving portfolios and operations. We need to approach climate as we have learned to approach gender and equity – by making it a part of all our grantmaking strategies. Climate, like racial equity, is a structural issue, so infusing it throughout our work is critical.”2

In 2022, stakeholder groups continue to call for accountability and transparency around CSR data, reporting, and fulfilling corporate commitments, showing the sustained importance of COMMUNICATIONS & MEASUREMENT. 53% of consumers believe companies who issue a statement of racial justice support must follow up with concrete action to avoid being seen as exploitative/opportunistic,4. In comparison, 52% of U.S. CEOS say they see significant demand for increased reporting and transparency on ESG issues from stakeholders.2

TRUST & RELATIONSHIPS are also hallmarks of interconnectivity. Brands and corporations that take a stand in response to racial injustice are 3x more likely to gain trust than lose it.4 66% of employees report a greater sense of loyalty to their employers as a consequence of participating in CSR programs,7while 72% of businesses have experienced improved supplier relationships over the past year as a result of their CSR initiatives.8 According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, corporate America continues to be a trusted institution in the wake of perceived government failure regarding the pandemic.

“Business must now be the stabilizing force delivering tangible action and results on society’s most critical issues,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.” 9  

As Larry Fink noted in his 2022 Letter to CEOs, “No relationship has been changed more by the pandemic than the one between employers and employees.”10ForCSR professionals, this relationship shows up through our EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT efforts. We continue to see the emergence of the “belief-driven employee,” who wants to work for a company that is a good corporate citizen. To this end, corporations must continue to evolve their employee engagement and volunteerism opportunities in response to the changing nature of the workplace. 77% of employees say that company-sponsored volunteer activities are essential to employee wellbeing.11 Over the past three years, the trends show that more than half of all employees are open to leaving their current company for new roles, but this drops to less than 12% if they believe their company is positively impacting the world.12

As CSR professionals, it’s essential to understand – and stay up to date on – the latest trends in the field. This is even more true now in this new era of interconnectivity,as there is increasing demand and need for CSR to integrate across departments and partner with various stakeholders.

For more information and data around interconnectivity, stakeholders, and making the business case for CSR, download the ACCP 2022 Making the Case for Socially Responsible Business toolkit today.

1 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, Edelman, 2021

2 KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook, KPMG, 2021

3 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: The Belief Driven Employee, Edelman, 2021

4 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Business and Racial Justice in America, Edelman, 2021

5 Agents of Sustainable Change: How Investors Expect Companies to be Socially Aware, Schroders, 2020

6 Philanthropy Should Commit to Integrating Climate Work into Everything, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2021

7 Closing The Racial Inequality Gaps, Citi, 2020

8 Seize the CSR Opportunity, Forrester, 2021

9 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, Edelman, 2022

10 Larry Fink’s 2022 Letter to CEOs: The Power of Capitalism, BlackRock, 2022

11 Post-Pandemic Fundraising, Accelerist, 2021

12 The 2021 State of Employee Engagement, WeSpire, 2021

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