Pinterest and Corporate Social Responsibility Expand
Recently, I received an announcement that Ari Simon was going to head up Pinterest’s Social Impact and Philanthropy division. What struck me is that it's a newly created role, but in keeping with corporations' and businesses' expanded focus on corporate social responsibility, it wasn't surprising.
Way back in 2019, which seems like a lifetime ago, something significant happened. The Business Roundtable decided for the first time in decades to not focus on shareholder profits as the singular metric of success. Meaning, its corporate members agreed to add other factors into their business strategies, including fair compensation, training, environmental protection and diversity and inclusion.
Of course, in 2020, as we all know, the world shifted with the pandemic. It's important to note that corporations and billionaires became nearly $4 trillion richer since the start of the pandemic and at a time of high unemployment and job insecurity.
Why CSR Remains a Great Incentive for Corporations
That said, at least one company — Pinterest — decided to continue down the course of social responsibility by making it a strategic priority. The reality is that corporations understand that CSR matters, and it's not something that's going away. In fact, the events and changes caused by the pandemic is undoubtedly a reason for corporations and wealthy donors to stake leading positions concerning social responsibility.
For instance, corporate leaders understand that their customers and workers want to see businesses lead in social responsibility, and social networking is holding corporations that behave badly or poorly accountable. Further, Cone Communications stated that 64% of workers wouldn't take a job at a company if it doesn't prioritize CSR. The same reporting revealed that 75% would accept lower pay to work in a socially responsible company.
Pinterest Takes a Leading CSR Position
In short, corporations understand that workers and the public want social leadership. Even when a lack of trust in many of our institutions exists, people realize that they could push corporations to do the right thing because, let's face it, companies don't want to lose customers or workers.
It's great to see that Pinterest has taken CSR seriously because many corporations have the financial power to make significant and positive differences in their communities. As we know, businesses and donors are open to seeing what works in the social good sector using tools such as CSR, impact investing, donor-advised funds and social enterprises.
Of note, especially as the world continues to wrestle with the pandemic and its aftermath, as mentioned in the announcement sent, Ari’s philanthropic strategy for Pinterest includes "expanding emotional wellbeing and place-based giving across Pinterest's global footprint."
Emotional Wellbeing and Pinterest
We know that the hardships people have faced during the pandemic have been immeasurable. Of course, we have to consider the losses of those families who suffered the passing of mothers, fathers, children and grandparents. However, we also have to deal with the after-effects of not attending school on kids. What does the isolation and disruption that they've experienced mean for their futures?
So, it's notable that Pinterest focuses on emotional wellbeing because it's something that society often misses or sweeps under the rug. In the nonprofit sector, we focus on the immediate concerns and issues (e.g., housing, employment, education, physical health). Still, to truly make an impact, we need to take a more humanistic and holistic approach to the programs we deliver.
Therefore, we should commend Pinterest and its focus on emotional wellbeing as a "precondition for inspiration and creating a life we love," as they noted in the message received. In practice, this means that Ari and his team will focus their work on employee volunteerism, matching gifts and expanded charitable giving efforts.
Corporate Brands and CSR
In the message I received, Ari expressed how CSR is not separate from its identity but instead at its core. I've been in the business for a long time. I remember the days when CSR was more of an afterthought than something that was an intentional, strategic choice at the center of what a brand did in the community and beyond.
As we know, it's becoming a bit of a cliché to say that times are changing. We know that, and what worked in the past, or was acceptable then, isn't today. With technology, mass global and instantaneous communication, expanded narratives for justice, equity, fairness and a better world for all rather than just a few have moved beyond talk to action. As many say, the time for discussion is finished, and a more action-oriented effort needs to happen.
In sum, corporations can read the tea leaves. I want to wish Ari and his team the very best of luck in making a significant impact, and I'm looking forward to more corporations and businesses, from multinationals to small mom and pop shops, taking on the mantle of social responsibility.
Paul D'Alessandro, JD, CFRE, is founder and chairman of D'Alessandro, Inc., a fundraising and strategic management consulting company. He is also a lawyer and a tax law specialist for nonprofits.