The three words: ‘corporate’, ‘social’ and ‘responsibility’ are innocuous enough in isolation. But put them together and they can induce mass yawning and eye-rolling among bosses around the country. Why is that? What is it about corporate social responsibility that strikes fear and loathing – or boredom and irritation – into many companies almost akin to a visit from the auditors…?
Many reasons are at the heart of such reticence: budgets, time, lack of resource, apathy, procrastination, a genuine misunderstanding of what’s required or the daunting pursuit of a suitable benefactor or alliance that properly reflects their own company’s brand/essence.
For some companies it’s a ticking box exercise – better to do the bare minimum to get the ‘worthy’ bit out of the way and concentrate on profit margins, right?
WRONG! These companies are missing a trick – one that could potentially reap dividends for their company.
According to Wikipedia, ‘The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere.’
Great. But what does that actually mean for individual companies in real terms? Those who want to do more but are concerned about ramifications on their bottom line?
Firstly self-regulation is fundamental. A consciousness about what their brand stands for and how it’s perceived by its target market is key. That sounds obvious, but tokenism is easily spotted. Using publicity and marketing ploys that fly in the face of topical social issues, ultimately alienating potential and existing consumers as well as causing damage to the brand. It could be argued that the bulk of Mcdonalds’ advertising budget is unashamedly skewed towards children’s TV. Promoting toys in their Happy Meals also perpetuates pester power and hence a large footfall of kids in a climate of universal childhood obesity. Can they honestly claim this is responsible marketing?
Secondly, a proactive approach to what can be done locally could be made into a more positive and dynamic experience. The ripple or ‘halo’ effect is well documented and can be gained through finding a cause that’s relevant to the brand and forging a mutually beneficial alliance with such an entity. The overarching impact of investing in the community at large has been proven to both naturally enhance the company’s ethos and identity as well as reflect positively on employees, making for a happier and therefore more productive work force.
So maybe CSR isn’t to be sniffed – or yawned – at after all…?