Employers should focus their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes on getting more people into work rather than environmental initiatives, according to a report by welfare-to-work provider Working Links.
The report found that, while many firms believe that they have a responsibility to support people in finding jobs, few see this as a priority.
The research found that 90% of employers considered it their duty to help the UK address economic challenges and 81% thought that their organisation should be tackling issues in society.
However, just 12% of respondents said that recruiting from disadvantaged groups was their main CSR priority, compared with 76% who considered environment and sustainability of primary importance. Seventy per cent of respondents said that they feared if they did target these groups they would have difficulty finding people with the right skills.
Working Links has called on employers to refocus their CSR priorities to help the 900,000 people in long-term unemployment to find jobs.
Chairman Millie Banerjee said: "Businesses must not underestimate the power of initiatives that help people into work. The pleasure people get from helping someone change their life is enormous and this translates into building a motivated, loyal workforce."
The report commends employers already making efforts to help disadvantaged groups find employment, such as supermarket Morrisons, which set itself the target of offering 10% of its new jobs to vulnerable people in 2011/12.
Former head of corporate responsibility at Morrisons, Norman Pickavance, welcomed the call for more businesses to start similar initiatives.
He said: "I know from my time at Morrisons that there are real commercial benefits in working closely with the communities in which you do business to help local people into work."
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