Business today is about more than just making a profit. As climate change, economic inequality, and other major problems impact communities worldwide, companies are increasingly expected to be purpose-driven and contribute to the greater good.

In a recent study by Deloitte, 93 percent of business leaders said they believe companies are not just employers, but stewards of society. On top of that, 95 percent reported they’re planning to take stronger stances on large-scale issues in the coming year and devote significant resources to socially responsible initiatives.

With more and more CEOs turning their focus to the long term, it’s important to consider what you can do in your career to make a difference. Here’s a look at three examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that can inspire you to influence change at your organization.

Successful Corporate Social Responsibility Examples

1. Lego’s Commitment to Sustainability


As one of the most reputable companies in the world, Lego aims to not only help children develop through creative play, but foster a healthy planet.

Lego is the first, and only, toy company to be named a World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers Partner, marking its pledge to reduce its carbon impact. And its commitment to sustainability extends beyond its partnerships.

By 2030, the toymaker plans to use environmentally friendly materials to produce all of its core products and packaging—and it’s already taken key steps to achieving that goal.

Over the course of 2013 and 2014, Lego shrunk its box sizes by 14 percent, saving approximately 7,000 tons of cardboard. Then, this past year, it introduced 150 botanical pieces made from sustainably sourced sugarcane—a break from the petroleum-based plastic typically used to produce the company’s signature building blocks.

Along with these changes, the toymaker has committed to investing $164 million into its Sustainable Materials Center, where researchers are experimenting with bio-based materials that can be implemented into the production process.

Through all of these initiatives, the company is well on its way to tackling pressing environmental challenges and furthering its mission to help build a more sustainable future.

Related: What Does "Sustainability" Mean in Business?

2. Salesforce’s 1-1-1 Philanthropic Model


Beyond being a leader in the technology space, cloud-based software giant Salesforce is a trailblazer in the realm of corporate philanthropy.

Since its outset, the company has championed its 1-1-1 philanthropic model, which involves giving one percent of product, one percent of equity, and one percent of employees’ time to communities and the nonprofit sector.

To date, Salesforce employees have logged 3.8 million volunteer hours. Not only that, but the company has awarded upwards of $260 million in grants, and donated to more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.

In addition, through its work with San Francisco Unified and Oakland Unified School Districts, Salesforce has helped reduce algebra repeat rates and contributed to a high percentage of students receiving A’s or B’s in computer science classes.

As the company’s revenue continues to grow, Salesforce stands as a prime example of the idea that profit-making and social impact initiatives do not have to be at odds with one another.

Sustainable Business Strategy

3. Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission


At Ben & Jerry’s, positively impacting society is just as important as producing premium ice cream.

In 2012, the company became a certified B Corporation, a business that balances purpose and profit by meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.

As part of its overarching commitment to leading with progressive values, the ice cream maker established the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation in 1985, an organization dedicated to supporting grassroots movements that drive social change.

Each year, the foundation awards approximately $1.8 million in grants to organizations in Vermont and across the US. Grant recipients have included the United Workers Association, a human rights group striving to end poverty, and the Clean Air Coalition, an environmental health and justice organization based in New York.

The foundation’s work earned it a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Award in 2014, and it continues to sponsor efforts to find solutions to systemic problems at both the local and national levels.

Related: 4 Accessible Ways Companies Can Drive Social Change

The Value of Being Socially Responsible

As these firms demonstrate, a deep and abiding commitment to corporate social responsibility can pay dividends. By learning from these initiatives and taking a values-driven approach to business, you can help your organization thrive and grow, even as it confronts global challenges.

Do you want to gain a deeper understanding of the broader social and political landscape in which your organization operates? Explore our three-week online course Sustainable Business Strategy, and learn more about how business can be a catalyst for system-level change.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.