Benevity Reveals the Top Five Trends Shaping the Future of Corporate Purpose in 2022

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Benevity’s annual State of Corporate Purpose report unpacks the major societal shifts from the last year and how they have changed the future of work, corporate philanthropy and ESG

Benevity, Inc., a leading provider of global corporate purpose software, released its second edition of The State of Corporate Purpose, a report from Benevity Impact Labs that takes a comprehensive look at proprietary data and research on the key industry trends shaping the future of corporate social responsibility (CSR); environmental, social and governance (ESG) and the future of work. Launched at Goodness Matters, the company’s flagship conference and the corporate purpose event of the year, the report details how companies are addressing key issues such as social and racial justice; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB); ESG and the changing landscape of corporate philanthropy. The report further highlights the impact purpose has had on employee and customer sentiment toward corporations.

Notably, corporations and their people demonstrated a desire to positively change society in a more sustained way, and in 2021, high levels of donations and volunteer hours were maintained as employees and companies continued to give and volunteer. In total, $2.3 billion in donations and almost 8.9 million volunteer hours (a 28% increase from 2020) were tracked through the platform.

Benevity’s report is the largest study of its kind, drawing insights and trends from 850 of Benevity’s client companies, their 20 million employees and hundreds of millions of their customers, who supported over 218,000 nonprofits in 2021.

The report highlights the top five trends shaping the future of corporate purpose in 2022: the need for businesses to step up in difficult times, the search for purpose as the root of the Great Resignation, new empowered approaches to DEIB, the evolution of corporate philanthropy into stakeholder philanthropy and the rapid rise in importance of purpose and ESG for investors, shareholders and boards.

“The Great Resignation is partly the result of employees expecting more from the companies they work for — they are seeking more flexibility, autonomy and higher quality jobs. But underneath that, we believe more people are looking for purpose, meaning and impact in every part of their lives, especially at work,” said Sona Khosla, Benevity’s Chief Impact Officer and head of Benevity Impact Labs. “Stakeholders want and expect companies to care about and act on social, environmental and cultural issues as much as they do. Forward-thinking businesses have taken notice and are leading the change, becoming central figures in creating community, catalyzing positive action and meeting the moment in times that matter.”

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Key Findings:

  • Companies shifted how they make a meaningful impact, moving from defining moments to grassroots investments: In 2021, companies changed how they made social investments — shifting from corporate granting during urgent moments to address timely needs related to social and racial inequities (e.g., Black Lives Matter protests) to giving grants to local community organizations working at the grassroots level to address systemic issues at the root of inequality and injustice. This is supported by Benevity data on the Top Grant Cause Categories:
    • Category: Community Improvement and Capacity Building — In 2020, this category was ranked 9th. In 2021, it moved up to 6th place.
    • Category: Civil Rights, Social Action and Advocacy — In 2020, this category was ranked 11th. In 2021, it moved to 16th place.
    • In 2021, companies gave $2.95 billion through 109,500 grants.
  • The prioritization of purpose is at the center of the Great Resignation: The acceleration of the Great Resignation in 2021 brought employee retention and engagement concerns to the forefront and shone a spotlight on the need for companies to prioritize what’s most important to their people — and today’s employees prefer brands that allow them to make a positive impact.
    • More companies offered “volunteer acts of kindness” as a way for people to give time and support without being tied to a specific nonprofit, and in 2021, this concept really took off: 40% of volunteer hours tracked in 2021 were volunteer acts of kindness.
  • Companies redefined how they engage their people in social action: With the pivot to remote and hybrid work in 2020, companies quickly adapted their purpose programs to include virtual volunteering and other opportunities for learning and positive action.
    • In 2019, virtual volunteering made up 23% of volunteer hours, and grew to 78% of hours in 2020. In 2021, virtual volunteering made up 73% of volunteer hours — showing that virtual volunteering is here to stay.
    • Positive actions, alongside learning opportunities, are also being used by companies to empower their people to do good. In 2021, there was a 66% growth in companies promoting learning and positive action and a 98% growth in the number of opportunities for positive action.
  • Causes focused on diversity and social justice received a greater share of donations: 2021 showed us that companies and their people continue to support racial and justice causes at higher levels than ever.
    • From January 2019 to April 2020, social and racial justice causes averaged 3.3% of total giving. After a spike during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, average total giving to these causes grew to 5.2% from September 2020 to December 2021, resulting in a 58% increase in giving to these types of causes.
    • While several of those causes who earned a swell of support in 2020 remained in the top 10 in 2021, they were joined in 2021 by Asian-affirming and LGBTQ+ causes as well.
    • Chinese for Affirmative Action (ranked 335th in 2020 and 4th in 2021) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (ranked 196th vs. 5th in 2021) saw significant growth in support in 2021, as did The Trevor Project, a leading LGBTQ+ organization (ranked 29th in 2020 vs. 9th in 2021).
  • ESG is how investors understand purpose: Environmental, social and governance policies and strategies have taken on increasing importance for shareholders and boards and have now proven to be major value and values drivers on their own — this will remain so only if companies stay steadfastly committed to the power of doing well by doing good.

Corporate purpose is no longer optional — it’s business critical, enabling businesses to drive meaningful change on key issues such as social and racial justice and DEIB, influencing employee attraction and retention, creating customer preference and loyalty and driving tangible business outcomes for investors, customers and employees alike.

To remain relevant in this new purpose-driven world, companies are investing more in their corporate purpose programs. Benevity provides the vision, platform and community to power the next generation of purpose-driven business.

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