When businesses begin to address the issue of corporate citizenship (CC), and when they develop a corresponding CC-strategy, the concerns of employees are usually not considered important. But take care: Research shows that employees are crucial for success when implementing, scaling, and maturing the CC-strategy. Thus: Thinking CC always requires to think employee engagement.

When adopting and driving CC, businesses go through the following three phases, according to this new study:

  1. Initiation
  2. Implementation
  3. Maturation

During the initiation phase, employees usually do not play a role. Rather, external factors lead to the development of a CC-strategy, such as media pressure or risks to the corporate image.

At the implementation stage, however, the importance of employees increases. Now it is about how businesses justify their claim of being committed to CC. Hereby, employees are often a vital link with local communities, thus becoming a visible part in the CC process.

Employee engagement is most important when maturing and scaling CC work. Only employees are able to create the identity of a responsible organization, showing an impact on at least two levels:

  • Engagement with CC positively affects employees’ attitudes toward the company, leading to increased motivation and retention of talent
  • Employees “allow the brand to be placed and interpreted in local contexts, thus ensuring a direct appeal to both global and local external and internal stakeholders”

Beyond the general observations on CC and employee engagement  summarized above, the study unfortunately does not reveal  dynamics of how the internal organizational process towards CC maturation flows specifically, leaving the practitioner to question how to to create the employee engagement needed. This lack of specificity is especially unfortunate, given the elaborate study design and the great efforts undertaken to collect data. As a consequence, the study falls short of its’ potential.

Sharon C. Bolton, Rebecca Chung-hee Kim, & Kevin D. O’Gorman (2011). Corporate social responsibility as a dynamic internal organizational process: A case study. Journal of Business Ethics, 101(1), 61-74.