There are many factors that drive marketing professionals in their next career move. Some will focus on financial reward, while career development and work-life balance will be prominent issues for others.
However, the subject of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an increasingly important concern in recent years. Indeed, our research has found 72 per cent of marketers regard this as an important issue when deciding to take a role. In fact, for 22 per cent it is very important.
As the employment market improves, this may become an even more critical matter, with more vacancies and less pressure to compromise when taking up a role.
For employers, it is therefore crucial that they not only understand the importance of CSR, but ensure that their activities in this area are not merely window dressing.
Some organisations will stretch a long way in this area, like the Co-operative Bank with its ethical investment policy that turns away business involved in certain trades, such as arms, tobacco and GM crops. Energy firm SSE has sought to emphasise responsibility in the area of tax, earning a Fair Tax Mark for its commitments to avoid the controversial aggressive avoidance tactics used by companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks.
When it came to awareness of the CSR activities of the biggest companies, Marks & Spencer came out on top, with 21 per cent noting its activities. Three of the four highest rated were retailers, with the Co-operative second behind M&S on 20 per cent and Sainsbury's in fourth on 14 per cent. Broadcasters also did well, with the BBC in third position on 17 per cent awareness and Sky on eight per cent. Amongst the major banks, Barclays came top for CSR recognition.
Major companies certainly appear keen to invest in CSR, although for some the focus of their efforts may be chiefly on boosting their image in the eyes of consumers rather than potential staff. Overall, CSR spend at the average FTSE-listed business has risen by 11 per cent since 2011 to £14 million a year.
However, total spend is not the only important issue. The kind of CSR activity is also influential for potential marketing recruits. According to the survey, 56 per cent believe community projects represent the best way to spend CSR budgets, with environmental projects second on 19 per cent.
Commenting on the findings, EMR managing director Simon Bassett said: “In today’s digital age, brand commitment to corporate social responsibility is more important than ever before as customers, staff and even investors look for a degree of social conscience and accountability from the businesses they deal with.
“Making purposeful contributions to meaningful projects and campaigns plays a key role in businesses’ efforts to encourage loyalty and motivate employees. A positive CSR image can be an immensely powerful tool in attracting, retaining and empowering the best talent."
For these reasons, he added, substantial investment in CSR is likely to pay for itself in terms of the standard of staff recruited. The best candidates will, by nature, have the most options on the table when seeking a new role. By having attractive features like a good approach to CSR projects, a company may find it has an advantage that will tip the balance as marketers make up their mind.