An Engagement Matrix: The CSR to Mission Continuum

On 1 July 2016 the Cabinet Office, in association with Legal & General, hosted an all-day open conversation on the future of ‘mission-led business’ in which Tom participated.  Tom facilitated a discussion on What can ‘Mission-Led Business’ learn from the world of CSR? and this is the second of two notes on the issue which he wrote as a result and submitted to the review.


As part of our discussion on Mission Led Businesses for the Cabinet Office, at Legal & General on 1 July, I spoke of a matrix of CSR activity. ‘Traditional CSR’ is towards the left and bottom of the matrix and ‘mission-led business’ towards the upper right.

1606 CSR matrixThis chart shows that CSR activity is divided into three qualitative categories and takes place at three different tiers of organisation; the chart is populated with examples of CSR activities though many others exist. (You could argue for more than three levels but three makes my point).

Traditional CSR activity tends to start on the shop floor (bottom left on the chart), with ad hoc fundraising such as Red Nose Day activity, recruiting sponsors for a charity walk or a cake bake. In its simplest form this activity may not involve management at all, unless permission is needed. Successful activity may lead to a broadening of engagement, perhaps into employees organising some voluntary activity between them in their own time, or a slight deepening. That would be perhaps when the employer matches the first number of pounds employees raise voluntarily or, as in the example given, makes payroll giving available. At this stage payroll giving would be independent of any other community engagement strategy.

The three boxes at top left, centre and bottom right all represent a further deepening of the company’s commitment to community engagement, so the CSR activity becomes more meaningful. For example, payroll giving might be actively promoted by management as part of a broader communications and engagement strategy, perhaps favouring a charity with which it shares a common mission or interest (such as construction with Shelter). In the category of Time & Talent employees are given paid time off to volunteer with ‘good causes’, typically up to three days per year, with various levels of organisation and promotion in operation. And Head & Heart comes into play with, at its most basic, a message of care and inclusion through the procurement of fair trade tea, coffee and sugar in the workplace.

At a yet more sophisticated level we see employers nominating key employees to carry out specific good work in the community using their professional skills. This has the effect of both creating capacity in the recipient charity and broadening the skills experience of the employee and the activity is clearly integrated into the mainstream of company operation. Cynics may argue that volunteering in paid time is not volunteering at all: but think of it as the company volunteering its time and skills to the good cause, not the individual.

Often such exercises can have the additional benefit of helping employees develop soft, interpersonal skills where that would be helpful in their work. ‘Sustainable purchases’ would mean that not only were tea and coffee bought with reducing negative impact in mind but cleaning materials and raw materials too, with a view to minimising pollution and environmental damage and maximising sustainability.

The top right hand corner is the pinnacle: all of this social and environmental activity is included in the company’s mainstream operations, and the values and mission of the company are reflected not only in its shop floor and boardroom but also in HR, procurement, transport and supply chain policies. For example, Boots has recently adopted the ‘Drop the Box’ approach to ensure that people with criminal records are not arbitrarily removed from consideration for recruitment – and they insist that companies in their supply chain do likewise. Adoption of Social Value Act criteria across a broad spectrum of activity would be in this box, too.

Finally, the activity that starts in the bottom left of the matrix cannot happen unless a ‘spark’ ignites the idea within the workforce. But the real value to the company comes in the move up the arrow, towards the top right – and this migration cannot happen in a sustainable way without the active and involved leadership of the company’s leaders, informed and guided in turn by their company mission.

This process only works when the company has both a workforce ready to engage and an leadership that is informed and enlightened.

There’s more about this in Chapter 6 of my book ‘Welcome to GoodCo’.